Author: The Rev. Dr. David Bridges, Priest
August 04, 2020

I used to get sympathy and empathy confused. Sympathy is when we feel bad for someone; empathy is when you try to understand how someone else feels. The following scripture from the Letter to the Hebrews is from The Message Bible: “Regard prisoners as if you were in prison with them. Look on victims of abuse as if what happened to them had happened to you.” (Hebrews 13:1-3)

That is empathy; putting yourself in the place of someone else to better understand them.  Part of our societal problems stem from our lack of understanding each other. Native Americans and Latinos are indigenous to this continent, whereas Africans were kidnapped and forcibly brought here. Each of these groups and many others have been treated like animals by European invaders.

The injustices inflicted on these societies has left indelible marks on our entire Nation. Likewise, immigrants from all parts of the world have often been horribly mistreated by the powers in control of our Nation and economy at various times in history.

Consider how practicing empathy would change that. If we really cared about knowing and understanding one another, we would give-up all stereotypes and biases to encounter one another on a spiritual level. To understand how someone else feels, we have to give-up our pre-conceived ideas and be willing to listen; really listen.

By understanding others, we are freed to better understand ourselves. Often we are blinded by our biases and misunderstandings of one another. No two humans have ever had the exact same experiences in life, therefore, each of us has a unique view of the world and our place in it. We do not live in a vacuum, but we often behave as if we do, or wish we did.

I was raised in a Christian, predominantly Caucasian, middle class, reasonably well-educated community. I have never been hungry or homeless. I am not from a historically oppressed ancestry. I have experienced white privilege all of my life.

These experiences have, in the past, cause me to be insensitive to the needs and pains of others. It also limited my ability to appreciate the unique gifts each individual brings to the human story. Perhaps one of the benefits of our current societal climate is the invitation to examine our own biases, prejudices, and understandings.

Our Nation is embarking on a new initiative; the quest for true equality. To heal our Nation, we must all examine ourselves to determine how we can facilitate the necessary changes in our individual and societal lives to make equality possible.

We will come through this and be better for it, but it will be painful for many. May the Great Creator of all bring us wisdom and peace.

Blessings and Peace to You All,
Fr. David+


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