Empathy and compassion are two things that are hard to come by in the present day. For many of us, we never grew up with empathy or compassion. This, in turn, can affect us on many emotional and psychological levels. As Christians, it is important that we extend empathy and compassion to all people.
If we truly follow Jesus, we know how important having empathy and compassion for others is, as Jesus Himself extended endless empathy and compassion to individuals as He walked on this earth. He also extends empathy and compassion to us in the present day.
Empathy and Compassion
Empathy is defined as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another” (Oxford Languages). Similarly, compassion is defined as “sympathetic consciousness of other's distress together with a desire to alleviate it.”
These are two important qualities for us to cultivate as Christians. It is important to cultivate these qualities because they will help us better understand, help, and serve others.
If we are not empathic and we don’t extend compassion, we are not sharing the true light of Christ in the world. Jesus tells us we are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14-16). We cannot be the light of the world if we are uncaring for the needs of others.
People in our lives will always need empathy and compassion. It might cause us to have to go out of our way at times to help others, but isn’t this what Jesus calls us to do? The Lord tells us to always go the extra mile (Matthew 5:41).
By stopping and spending time with someone who is in need of a helping hand or a shoulder to cry on, we are truly extending Jesus’ love to the person. We can also think of it in this way — we all want others to be supportive and caring when we are particularly going through a difficult time.
Nobody wants to feel as though nobody cares about them, especially when they are going through a hard time. Since this is true, we need to treat others the way we want to be treated. Jesus tells us, “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31).
Therefore, we need to extend empathy and compassion to others. Cultivating and practicing can be difficult, especially if we have never experienced empathy and compassion in our own lives. Growing up, my family was a little different, and my mother did not extend much compassion.
While her efforts were to make us more independent, they affected me in a negative way. My mother also had difficulty understanding the way I felt, as she thought I was just “too emotional.” While all of these past pains and hurts have been forgiven, I can recognize that they have affected me.
Since I didn’t grow up with much empathy or compassion, I try my best now to extend these things to others. While it doesn’t always get returned to me, I know it is what God wants me to do. If we are following God, we cannot, in a right conscience, turn away from those who are in need.
Even if a person may not seem as though they need help in a physical or financial way, they are most likely in need of emotional or spiritual help.
How Does This Apply to Us Today?
As Christians, we can help them by extending empathy and compassion to them. A simple “how are you” in a genuine manner can go a long distance in a person’s day.
Many of us might answer a generic answer to this question, such as “fine” or “alright,” yet if we ask a person who is really in need, it might cause them to start crying or express how they are really doing without covering up their pain.
It is unrealistic to believe that everything will always be happy and full of sunshine. There are going to be times when we are going to be in need of empathy and compassion, as well as there will be times when others in our lives will be in need of empathy and compassion.
It is vital that we are able to understand when these times are and that we know when we need to extend extra love, support, and encouragement to others.
Maybe you have been in a place before where you were going through a really difficult time, such as a breakup, a job loss, or the death of a loved one, and there was no one there to extend empathy and compassion. Most likely, this made you feel alone and unloved.
The feelings of being alone and unloved are very damaging to anyone’s emotional well-being. Since we know people feel bad when we don’t extend empathy and compassion, this should motivate us all the more to be caring and loving to others.
A simple act of empathy or compassion can go a long way in the heart of another person. Being empathetic and compassionate are not impossible skills to obtain.
Rather, through God’s help and through the heart God has given us, we can all learn to be compassionate and empathetic.
Some of us are naturally more empathetic and compassionate than others, yet even those who are not naturally empathetic and compassionate can cultivate these qualities in their lives.
God has given us two main commands. The Lord tells us, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:34-40).
From the Lord’s words, we are told the two greatest commandments are to love God and to love others. We love others and love God by extending empathy and compassion to them.
How can we say we are loving God and loving others if we are turning away from their emotional needs? If we truly love God as much as we proclaim, we need to allow this truth to be shown in what we do.
Our actions and behaviors are a natural outflow from our hearts. If we are truly loving God, we will want to love others just as He loves them.
However, we cannot be truthful in the statement that we love God if we turn a deaf ear to the needs of others. While many individuals have no trouble giving financially to those in need, it is much harder to help those who are in need of empathy and compassion.
To help those with these needs, one has to invest time, energy, and support into the other person. Sadly, most people do not take the time to help their fellow human beings in this way.
God wants us to go the extra mile and help others in their sorrows, depression, and heartbreaks. He doesn’t want us to stand far off and do nothing to help others.
What Does This Mean?
The Lord has given us each a heart, and He wants us to use our hearts to connect to people, encourage them, and support them. We can only truly do this through extending empathy and compassion.
The world is a very dark place that needs the lights of Jesus shining brightly for Him. As Jesus’ followers, we are the lights of the world, and He wants us to extend empathy and compassion to all people.
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Vivian Bricker loves Jesus, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She has earned a Bachelor of Arts and Master's degree in Christian Ministry with a deep academic emphasis in theology. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, reading, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, she is embarking on other adventures.