The Power of Empathy

So many things in Christianity are paradoxical.  Love your enemies.  Turn the other cheek.  Dying to be born to everlasting life.  It is truly a life-long process to gain the understanding and meaning of these teachings.  It is not until we experience it  or are given the graces through the Holy Spirit that we truly gain wisdom and understanding.  I had one such experience last week.

 

About a month ago, my daughter got a kitten.  The kitten was carrying ringworm and showing no signs of the disease, just her super cute little “cuddle me” kitten face.

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Everyone was happy to indulge the kitten and the kitten shared the ringworm.  Extensively but not exclusively.  All 8 family members got ringworm.  Doctors visits, prescription medications, reactions to medications, homeopathic remedies, natural remedies, OTC ointment, vet visits for kitty and dogs, all totaling over $1000 and lots of time that we will never get back was the cost of this sweet, cuddle-me kitten.  We decided that the kitten needed to go back to the ranch as none of us wanted to risk getting this infection again.  The doctors all said that they had never even heard of it being so prolific and extensive in one household.  We are still recovering after 4 weeks!

 

My daughter was, of course, heartbroken about having to return her kitten.  But, she was more than understanding as to why.  After all, she had the worst case of ringworm of all of us.  As she was processing her emotions, she lay on the couch in the living room.  Daniel looked up and immediately recognized that something was wrong.  “Angela, what is the matter?”  I explained, “She’s sad because we have to send the kitten back to the ranch.”  The next moment was an expression of pure love and empathy.  He looked up at her and said how sorry he was, that he understood how she felt.  His voice crackled as he felt all the emotions and stated how sad he was when he thought our dog Max would have to go when he was chewing up all of the faucet covers.  Tears welled up in his eyes and Angela’s heart and my own felt like they would burst with sadness for sweet Daniel.  In that moment of empathy Daniel’s expression of love and compassion, understanding and sadness was so compelling it left no room in our hearts for our own self-pity.  It completely healed the pain in the moment. It was indeed paradoxical.

 

I’m not saying the problem was solved, for there are many issues in life where there is no solution, no remedy for the pain.  I’m not saying that Angela hasn’t felt sadness since that moment or that she will not feel sad in the future, for the loss still exists.  But, in that particular moment of time, love healed.  No judgement, no logic, no lecture, no attempt to justify or solve–just pure empathy.  I learned the power of empathy in that moment.  I learned what it means to be “childlike”.  I experienced the power of unconditional love.  I was transformed in that moment with a resolution to love others unconditionally as I had just witnessed.  Christ was present in Daniel and we were blessed by His presence.

 

“Blessed are the pure of heart, for they will see God.“  (Matthew 5:8)

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