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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.

 

 

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(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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(c) 2009, Christiana Lambert