Posts Tagged ‘empathy’

No One Wants To Be A Racist

November 1, 2016

The phrase “locker room talk” suddenly hit the public news media recently. It was used to explain or justify talking crudely about women or people of other races.

Ever wonder what locker room talk is?

Me, too. The only sport I played was tennis. We didn’t have a locker room. 

Pro athletes spoke up and said their locker room conversations were nothing like that.

In my life I’ve been around “man talk”, of course. Almost never have I been part of “girl talk”, of course. So my experience is somewhat limited. Outside of three long months I spent in a fraternity in college, I’ve never been around conversations describing women and sexual exploits and the like. Those were probably post-adolescent boy fantasies. 

Racial comments are frequent in many places. Mostly white-guy “jokes” or comments about another race being lazy, worthless, criminal. Sometimes not another race but another culture of the same race. “Hillbilly” used to be a term of derision. Now maybe it’s redneck?

Shane Claiborne in the book I cited yesterday, Red Letter Revolution: What If Jesus Meant What He Said?, commented, “No one wants to be a racist, except for maybe some really mean people.”

I think he’s right. I’ve heard people make the meanest comments about people of another race. Then later when the term racist was brought up, they would remark, “I hope you aren’t calling me a racist.”

We don’t hear what we ourselves say.

Robert Burns, the Scottish poet, said it centuries ago, “O wad a giftie gie us, to see ourselves as others see us.” 

How often do we reflect on what we say and do? And feel embarrassed? I have those flashbacks every once in a while.

Jesus did show us the way. And typically for him, he set the bar so high that we can never feel complacent. His culture was very racially defined. The Jews (like many other tribes) tried mightily to keep themselves separate from people of other races. 

Yet, Jesus healed the child of the woman “who was Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin.” He led a Samaritan woman to a deeper spiritual understanding of God. These were doubly groundbreaking. Not only were they not his race, they were women.

Like in everything, Jesus shows us the way. If only we can get our hearts right so that we can follow. No says I want to grow up and be a racist (well, with a few psychopathic exceptions). But we do. It’s hard loving people who are different. But as followers of Jesus, we need to follow him there, too.

How Much You Care

July 28, 2016

“People don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care.” B Haley, drummer with Toby Mac and The Diverse City

John Fischer, pastor and Jesus Movement worship leader/composer, has a blog, email newsletter, and podcast called The Catch. (Get it, fisher–catch?). This week he interviewed B Haley. B is drummer and speaker with Toby Mac and The Diverse City–a Christian music group.

By the way, B is African-American. Part of the subject of the interview was the strained race relations we’re seeing in America right now. I don’t remember the exact quote, but B said that what we need is to forget the divisive language and use Jesus language. He never asked who you were or what race or whatever. He just cared about people he met and asked how he could help them.

B says, remember how Jesus gave us the command “Love others as we love ourselves”? That means we love others as brothers/sisters. That’s the language Christ-followers need to be using.

Then he said something that sounds trite until you digest it, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Walking up to someone in emotional distress and quoting from page (whatever) from the DSM and saying, “Just think better thoughts and you’ll feel better.” Or saying to someone, “I’ll pray for you” and then leaving them.

Quoting a scripture may show your knowledge, but how much does it really help someone?

What do we need to do?

Listen. Active listening.

Many people (most?) never feel like someone cares enough to really listen to them. When I hear husbands talk about how they suggested all manner of remedies and solutions to their wives–only to be met with indifference or worse–I counsel them to listen. “She doesn’t need solutions,” I tell them. “She’s smart enough to figure that out. She just wants someone to listen to her.” Then I make my own feeble attempt to practice what I preach.

Sometimes I think it’s my calling in life to listen. Ask me a question about something I’m passionate about, and I’ll talk all day. But for some reason, people sense that they can talk to me, and that I’ll listen with empathy. But it helps them. And I’m here to serve. I can listen for hours.

And I get along with all races and socioeconomic groups. Always have. Don’t know why.

I wish I could teach this to everyone. And our lives, the lives of those we care for, the lives of our community, and the shape of the world would all be so much better if even just all Christians could do that. Let alone all the other people of the world.

Show how much you care by taking the time to listen. Then you can help guide.

The Tongue Can Cause Great Hurt

March 30, 2015

No one can tame the tongue, full of restless evil and deadly poison. James

She heard that a certain group of people were plotting against a leader. She felt the greatest sympathy for the leader. Surely the source was correct. All the insinuations fit precisely within her already formed prejudices.

It became so easy to just begin telling people about the great injustice. Tell people about those evil people.

And there was more than one she.

And he heard something about another person. And then he saw something suspicious. Not sure what it was, but in his mind it became something else. Bigger. Worse. He just had to tell colleagues. It’s only natural.

Yet another person figured out within the mind what motivated another person. The analysis slipped out in conversation one day.

In every case and more, the word never stops with the friend you just happened to speak with. It spreads. Eventually to the target of the talk.

It may not have even felt like gossip. It felt righteous. A feeling of relief swetpt over the mind and body with the unburdening of the information.


Except, it was all wrong. There was no basis in fact. There was no attempt at finding facts. And once spoken, the words become beliefs.

Some people make this stuff up in order to gain some sort of advantage or to gain some sort of emotional release. Most of us? Well, most of us just talk without thinking.

And it hurts. The target will hurt deeply.

I’ve witnessed so much of this in my life. Many times just within the past 12-18 months. 

It scares me. I wonder about every off-hand remark I might have made. Every wrong analysis.

James was so right about the tongue. And it is so hard to control.

I also found Psalm 15 and Micah 6:8 to further convict me.

The Renovare Life With God Bible in the commentary on James tells us that we must learn to discipline our wrong emotions and bring them under God’s  control. 

I hurt for those who have been wrongly hurt by an unthinking tongue. Just hoping I’m more of a calm and peace-seeking influence than a fire-starter.

Are You Emotionally Intelligent

September 26, 2014

My recent reading has turned up some new thoughts on emotional intelligence. I thought I would focus on two traits this morning. Self-aware and Empathetic.

I think these go together.

To be self-aware means that we can see ourselves as others see us. I can still remember one of those experiences when I was perhaps 11 or 12. I was doing one of those “boy” things and had a vision seeing myself from the outside. And how stupid I was. There have been other occurrences since I provide plenty of stupidity times.

A good time to actually try to do this is while in a queue at an airline counter when all the flights are cancelled. You see yourself being less than kind to the poor gate agent–the only person who can help you.

This leads to empathy–a trait lacking in the narcissistic among us. Seeing the whole incident from outside ourselves, so to speak, allows us to see the other person as a fellow human being with feelings just like us.

A narcissistic person (one who is self-absorbed) will tend to look at the situation as one where someone else can help me or hinder me. An empathetic person begins to feel what the other person is going through. Our feelings mesh with theirs. It’s not just about us anymore. It’s about us.

Just today someone told me about a terrible hurt from an incident of many years ago. It still hurts. It hurt me to think about it.

Perhaps today we can try self-awareness and empathy. Life is so much better that way.