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My mother with my brother and me.

Life is complicated—and included within that expression is the understanding that human life is complicated. I understand that many people, including dear friends of mine, think of life in black and white terms. For me, there is no way to ignore the varied shades of gray. It is simpler to say something either is or is not—and, yet, I cannot do so. I have listened to Bible lessons and sermons all my life—and I’ve dug into the Bible on my own and through study with others. God and Jesus and their Bible are also complicated. My heart and prayers tell me to look for the love within the rules. If God and Jesus are love—and I believe they are—then wrestling to find the love in the complications is part of that commandment to love one another.

When the rule is defined as life begins at conception—despite the science on the matter—and when there are no exceptions, then we are saying that emerging life is primary to existing living beings, and that any effects on other humans are secondary.

So when the young mother in the 1920s is in labor with her first child—it will be discovered the infant is a son with such severe hydrocephalus that he will not survive and his delivery will kill his mother. The decision is made to lance his head so she will not die. The sorrow at this loss will follow her to her grave—as she spends the rest of her life decorating his grave every Memorial Day. But she will go on to give birth to 5 living children, who will have 22 who live past birth, to 42 in the next generation to a number near that in the current generation.

Another young mother in the 1920s will have ectopic twin pregnancies, growing outside the womb, until they burst and destroy both her fallopian tubes. There was no chance for those fertilized eggs to grow safely, given a fetus cannot survive outside of the uterus. Unlike most women of her era, the woman survived the infection that followed. She recovered, but she had forever lost the opportunity to be a mother. (And the Depression years that followed turned out to be a hard time to find babies to adopt—somehow surprise babies were rarely born.)

Enter the 1950s. A married mother of two young children finds out her current pregnancy will kill her. A doctor (not a back-alley doctor, but a respected local physician) terminates that pregnancy. Years later, the woman who assisted with the hush-hush procedure will see that mother out with her children and realize just how different those children’s lives could have been.

None of these situations addresses the ability of a woman to control the size of her family—these were all women who had welcomed those pregnancies—and were devastated when the pregnancies did not end with a healthy baby in their arms. But with 1960 came the introduction of “the Pill.” And with Griswold v. Connecticut in 1965, married women around the country could turn their focus to the children they already had. Thirty years later as I reveled in the births of my miracle twins, I would listen to these women talk about the relief they felt when they could raise the three to five children they already had—and not worry about the cost, time, and possible physical complications of having more children.

Of course, unmarried women still had to wait for a decision on the right to birth control until the early 1970s, which was followed by Roe v. Wade in 1973.

I have known women who bore little responsibility for preventing unwanted pregnancies and who took a casual approach to abortion. But, so many more weigh the decision against a lot of those gray factors. And how do we as a society show love for women who do choose life in difficult situations?

The same people who would deny abortion (and many forms of birth control, should precedent also be thrown out against the privacy laws guaranteed by the 14th amendment) are often stingy about helping those in need. Education, medical care, food, and housing assistance are all called out as socialism—and admonishments to take personal responsibility come from political leaders and media sources. There is little recognition for how poverty affects the parents and those lives that were saved. It’s as if society’s own responsibility to care for life stops at birth.

Which is exactly the opposite of what Jesus says in his Sermon on the Mount. He doesn’t say, “Blessed are those who take personal responsibility.” And, instead, he continues to provide parables that show he is not so concerned with personal responsibility as are so many in our current times. The older brother in the “Prodigal Son” story is not the hero—despite how responsible he has been. The first workers in the vineyard are not praised simply because they have always done the right thing. These kinds of people are called out because they lack compassion for those who have made mistakes. And they are reprimanded for not thinking they should share with those “others.”

If you’re pro-life, then you really need to also show that by supporting a society that provides a safety net for those who need help to raise that life. But, really, pro-life should be pro-God, which means trusting God to be in the details. Jesus didn’t address abortion in any way. But he did address topics such as loving all your neighbors (including your enemies), caring for the poor, forgiving 7 x 70, and “judging not lest ye be judged.”

Lest we forget, our country was founded with a separation of church and state. Not as a Christian nation nor as a nation where Christians get to tell everyone else how to live. The best way Christians can promote Christian values in this nation is by following Jesus’ mandate—to love one another. And empathy is a huge component of love. Taking baby steps in others’ shoes is a way to begin to understand how complicated life is. Taking away someone’s choice is oversimplifying all the repercussions of continuing life at all costs. In the gray, we can take circumstances into consideration.

But with the current push toward legal changes with their all-or-nothing application, I fear my whole large family’s future existence would have been erased in the moment when the doctor was required to let my grandmother die.

loveandpatientpartialheartcbl2014

(c) 2014 Christiana Lambert

For too long I have been silent. No more. My heart hurts for the discourse I read, and then further when I hear that some in our country are carrying out acts of hatred toward those who are considered the Other. For my friends who believe justice has been served in this election and that the losers on this side of history should just grow up and accept what has happened, I want them to understand that many people are afraid that is now OK to be judged (and punished) for how they look, or who they love. I’m not got going to grow out of my concern for the Other—and, for me, it is specifically because of what I’ve learned from others of faith and from the Bible. My God is a God of love and my faith compels me to strive to be a person of love—no matter what.

We all pick and choose what we quote from the Bible. I know this is considered a crazy and possibly heretical thought by many Christ-followers, but as a literature major, I can tell you I always read for depth and meaning in everything I read. While I may not know the Greek and Hebrew behind the original creation of the passages we know today, nor do I know all the history surrounding the events in the books of the Bible, I most certainly know to recognize when there are conflicting passages in the Great Book. I must prayerfully consider and reconcile the differences.

For me, I choose to pick the verses where Jesus said the greatest commandments were to love the Lord and God with all your soul and your strength and your mind and to love your neighbor as yourself. In his exchange in Luke 10 with the expert of the law who correctly answered that those were the most important laws, the man then asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus responds by starting out with, “A man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho . . . ”

He launches into the parable of the Good Samaritan–and I’m pretty certain that Samaritans were on some sort of registry there in those days. Who was the hero of that story? The outsider–and the man who showed love. What was Jesus telling us here? That love is love. And to love everyone.

There’s that “love everyone” thing again–which seems really, really hard to do these days.

I’m going to try to love the people who have made statements I consider unconscionable—not because my mean-spirited human heart wants to do so, but because my God asks me to love all my neighbors. We can disagree on how we approach the laws of this country, but unless the rhetoric includes language of kindness and empathy, I want others to know that I won’t stand for it. These days it’s all the rage to be snarky but it isn’t very Christian. And yet that’s just what we Christians are showing the world.

Who is my neighbor? You all are.

 

 

(c) 2011 Sherman Lambert

(c) 2011 Sherman Lambert

You know that old saying, “Unless you stand for something, you’ll fall for anything”—well, that’s why having beliefs matter, why having something to base your life on matters. Yes, actions speak louder than words, but if you know what you really believe, it’s easier to direct your actions, even if you sometimes fall short.

I’m not saying that you have to believe exactly as I do, but I do think the world we live in needs a whole lot more of us attempting to live out the tenets of the Golden Rule—doing unto others as we would like done unto ourselves. And, it’s not good enough only applying the Golden Rule to people we consider similar enough to us to be considered our neighbors. We’ve got to do a better job of looking out for everyone, both in our individual interactions with people and through how we treat people as a whole in our society.

This “looking out for number one” stuff just doesn’t work for building up the social order. Yet, sometimes it seems as if many of us support tearing down much of what has been built for the greater good in the last century. I mean, if it doesn’t affect us then, does it really matter?

Most of us have never experienced the absoluteness of a time without social safety nets which makes it easier to believe in the power of the individual. We didn’t live through the Great Depression or World War II, or a time when widows, orphans, the ill, the disabled, or the elderly had to rely only on the kindness of voluntary institutions or donors.

When we try to understand others’ experiences, we have a better chance at feeling empathy for and caring for others. But even when we can’t really begin to understand those experiences, we still know in our hearts quite a bit about how we want to be treated—and not treated—by others.

Believing in the Golden Rule is all about believing that other human beings matter, despite knowing that others don’t always deserve our good treatment any more than we always deserve good treatment from others. By extending each other more credit than we warrant, we lift up everyone—and, consequently, the world in which we all live—together. From this belief my best efforts and actions follow.

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

I really hope that in my younger years that I was not as unaware about the elderly as many seem to be. But since I likely was, I beg for forgiveness for how much harder I might have made someone else’s experience when he or she was already living a harder life than mine. Although my mom’s been gone over two years, I guess it really has been three long years since she spent much time outside of her residence—perhaps the treatment of the elderly has changed since then? Still, I am shocked at the callousness directed at my in-laws who are older than either of my parents got to be.

Have people lost quite a bit of patience since the days when my mother needed my care, or, as the primary person charged with watching out for her, was I just that much more focused on her than on the outside world? What I remember is people watching us together and looking as if they were glad someone was there beside someone in such need. Helping her move about was a time-consuming process, but I don’t have memories of people just ignoring us or getting angry because we moved slower than others might have preferred to move. Trust me, if I had experienced people acting that way toward my mama, I would have been furious.

My 88-year-old mother-in-law really wanted to get out to a Colorado Rockies game this season. Not sure that was the wisest plan, but it is what she wanted and, besides, we would be there with her. Though my husband dropped off his mother and me so we wouldn’t have far to walk to the ballpark, we still had to get around once inside. She can walk well with someone else at her side, but she cannot walk quickly. I just felt as if people were looking right through her or trying to push around her. The masses of people took little notice of the frail woman hanging on to my arm—I jokingly suggested she hold out her cane to allow us some space and that always feisty woman followed through on the suggestion! Getting to the elevators—that are supposed to be for certain ticketholders, the elderly, disabled, and families with small children—was quite challenging. After the game she had to wait quite awhile for the elevator that seemed to be full mostly of people who met none of the criteria.

Yet, getting angry at the elderly for being so much slower is even worse than not seeing them. I really question the “hurry up” world we live in when drivers cannot slow down, even for those whose days of need for speed are obviously long gone.

Earlier this year, I took my in-laws to see their doctor. Since they do not have a disabled parking permit for their vehicle, I stopped to drop off them and my son at the entrance of the medical building. Their white heads along with their reliance on my son for balance clearly indicated they needed easy access to the building, yet the driver of the big red truck following closely behind us honked repeatedly at us before racing around at a speed unsafe in any parking lot.

Various family members take turns driving my husband’s father to daily IV infusion appointments—he is over six weeks into the second round of treatments. His condition is such that his body notes every bit of long-term road damage, as well as any new potholes that have sprung up since the trips began in February. We take corners cautiously and slow down for bumps even if we don’t drive under the speed limit on smooth roads. Yesterday, after his daily treatment was over and as his wife was waiting to be moved from the ER to ICU back in the same hospital he visits, I took him home from the longer-than-expected outing. As we were driving along with traffic on a road with a 30 mph limit, a pickup trunk honked and swerved around us, the driver’s face twisted in absolute hatred while his left arm was flipping us off so hard and so frequently I swear he was going to develop carpal tunnel syndrome.

Seriously, what is up with people? Would it matter if it were their own mothers or fathers in front of them? Or will they themselves have to be elderly before they understand that this is no way to treat anyone, let alone those who really cannot move more quickly?

A world that treats its elders with such disrespect is not a world in which any of us should aspire to grow old. Let’s take it upon ourselves to slow down for those who need our patience—but not because one day we want to be treated better but because it’s the right way to treat people, period.

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

I have this friend who lost her mom to Alzheimer’s just after Thanksgiving. Because she feels emotionally fragile these days, she doesn’t talk about her loss with many people. She chooses those with whom she shares her loss very carefully.

Since she watched me walk through my mother’s Alzheimer’s, she let me in on her news right away. I hope she sees me as a safe person who understands something of what she is going through. I don’t question her when I see tears in her eyes but let her decide if she wants to explain them.

Last night at church I ran into a woman I met in a grief support group last May. We know each other only because of our losses. She asked me if I had reached my mother’s anniversary date and then I asked about her anniversary, which is coming soon. The truth is I can only understand but a portion of her loss because she did not lose an elderly parent, but a son close in age to me.

Still, there is something about having walked through grief that opens our eyes to others’ pain—sometimes giving us insight into how others’ pain can be even greater than ours—which is something we so often doubt in the early hours of our own dark nights.

These days my bible study group is reading and thinking about the Beatitudes, through James C. Howell’s study, The Beatitudes For Today. This week we are studying “Blessed are those who mourn.” We wrestle with whether or not those words are about mourning deaths in our personal circles or if the mourning Jesus mentions is about grieving our sins or the harshness we see in this world or, who knows what else?

But the part of this lesson that speaks to me at this point in my life is that because I have suffered losses that I still mourn, I am able to see others’ losses. Might I be just another person my friend avoids in her time of loss if I hadn’t already taken the walk to the tomb?

It’s tough to feel blessed when in mourning, but then I look around at all the support I have received on this earth from other people and I know God has not forgotten me. Perhaps it is in my brokenness that I am learning to listen to other people’s stories instead of just telling my own.

I’m not so saintly that I’ll say I’m glad for my losses. However, I am grateful that at least they have grown me into a person who watches out for those who are also blessed in this way they never sought. I was blind, but now I see.

And that is a blessing in itself.

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