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Empathy; the Opposite of Spiritual Meanness

Updated: Aug 20, 2021

Good morning, it is Thursday, July 8, 2021

“Empathy is really the opposite of spiritual meanness. It’s the capacity to understand that every war is both won and lost. And that someone else’s pain is as meaningful as your own.” – Barbara Kingsolver

About a year ago, I was traveling through town with a car that would race to the stop light and then have to wait due to a red light. He was obviously in a hurry. He changed lanes frequently depending on which one looked shorter or was moving faster. This went on all the way through town and even as we traveled out toward the country.

As we drove, traffic lights became less frequent, but he was always the first one at the light and the first one to bolt out of the starting gate.

I spent close to 12 minutes traveling with and watching this young man try to get ahead, to no avail. It irritated me. I remember saying out loud “The traffic lights are timed to match the speed limit. It does you no good to race ahead buddy.”

As we left the last stop light, headed for open highway, he punched it. I sighed. Several seconds later I could see a car pulling out ahead of him and knew it would slow him down once again. And it did. I eventually caught up to him. I was approximately 8 to 10 car lengths behind as we rounded a corner and suddenly a deer came bounding out of the woods straight into his path.

His first reaction was to swerve into the oncoming lane, but realizing what he had done, he jerked his wheel to the right, coming back into our lane but he over corrected and hit the gravel on the side of the road.

In a split second, he lost control, his car jetted back into oncoming traffic. In another second he was nose first into the embankment and the oncoming truck slammed into the passenger side of his car.

I pulled off the road as I handed my phone to Wendell and said “Dial 911.” As I got the car parked, the call had gone through. I grabbed the phone and started running toward the wrecked car.

The driver’s door was open, and the young man was slumped over the wheel. He was not moving. As I was talking to the 911 operator another driver appeared on scene and had climbed down in the ditch to get closer to the man. The 911 operator asked if me he was breathing. I asked the fellow driver who was at the opened door by now. He shook his head and said “I don’t believe so.”

Just like that, a life was ended.

The highway was closed for some time. I was asked to stay and give my statement to a trooper. An ambulance arrived and took the driver from the truck and eventually I was allowed through the wreckage to continue on my way.

I was numb.

My irritation had turned to sadness; and I remember thinking “If I had known that I was witnessing the last 10 minutes of this young man’s life, I would not have been so stressed about the way he was driving. If I knew that 12 minutes down the road, he would take his last breath I would have done anything in my power to stop him.” I would have had much more pity and compassion for him. I really scolded myself.

But here is the thing, we never know when someone is going to take their last breath. We never know what is around that next corner. As Christians, every day should be filled with compassion for our fellow humans.

“Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,” Colossians 3:12 ESV

As Christians, every day should be spent trying to tell someone about Jesus.

I was in the checkout line at a grocery store one day when a “hippy chick” in front of me turned to me and said, “Do you know about Jesus?” I smiled and said “Yes, I do.” She went further, “Have you accepted Him as your personal Savior.” Still smiling I answered, “I sure have.”

WOW! She was bold. It was so unexpected.

Many years ago, I had a good friend that seemed to have everything. She could buy whatever she wanted; go wherever she wanted; do whatever she wanted. I remember, at times, feeling a bit envious. She had a charmed life, until the day she was diagnosed with cancer. She died in her early 40’s leaving behind children, a husband and plans for a brand-new business. I remember thinking “If only I had known…I would never have felt envious of her; if only I had known.”

But here is the thing, we never know when someone is going to take their last breath! Be thankful for what God has given you! Every day is a gift; let us not waste it wishing we had something else, something more.

“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” Colossians 3:15 ESV

I was in a situation a few years ago where a person was borderline rude to me. It was in a store. She was short with her answers, not very accommodating. I will not go into details but what I want to point out is this: once she heard my name, her whole demeanor changed. Now I am no one special, but at the time I was in radio and fairly well known in certain circles. Once she knew who I was, her body language shifted, she smiled and bent over backwards to help me. It was ridiculous for lack of a better word. She treated me better once she knew who I was.

Have you ever had an experience where you were more compassionate toward someone once you understood their circumstances?

I think it is safe to say most of us have been there; done that. But what does Jesus want from us?

“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” 1 Peter 3:8 ESV

We should be happy in all circumstances. We never know what someone is going through. We should be kind and loving to everyone we meet or have encounters with. We never know if today is going to be their last day. Or ours. I learned that lesson and when I find myself having thoughts that I know are judgmental, I immediately tell God I am sorry and ask for a change of heart.

“Everyone has untold stories of pain and sadness that make them love and live a little differently than you do. Stop judging, instead try to understand.”- Anonymous

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