I Just Discovered Empathy
Let me start this post by stating that I do not, under any circumstances, believe that one must give up fundamentalism to be an empathetic person and live out Romans 12:14-18. There are many people in my life who are staunch fundamentalists, and who have also demonstrated true agape love to me.
But in my personal faith journey, I have found that I did not truly discover empathy—the ability to genuinely mourn with those who mourn, and take true joy in others’ good fortune—until I finally let fundamentalism slip from my fingers.
Let me say that again. I had to give up fundamentalism to discover empathy. What the heck?!
Just for clarification, this is what I mean when I use the word “fundamentalism”:
A form of Protestantism that stresses the infallibility of the Bible not only in matters of faith and morals but also as a literal historical record, holding as essential to Christian faith belief in such doctrines as the creation of the world, the virgin birth, physical resurrection, atonement by the sacrificial death of Christ, and the Second Coming.
It’s not that I didn’t feel empathy for people before I started my plunge into the deep waters of the unknown. It’s just that before it was a vague desire to make a difference. It manifested itself in the occasional kind word or affirmation that what someone was going through was difficult.
But I didn’t, figuratively speaking, kneel down on the ground beside these people. I didn’t feel anguish when I saw their tears, or joy when I saw their happiness. I was, in a general sense, indifferent.
Now, though, at the risk of sounding melodramatic, I can honestly say that God has opened the floodgates of my heart. It breaks when I read stories of LGBT folk being horribly mistreated by the Church. It breaks when I read on Facebook that someone I know is having marital troubles. It breaks when my mother tells me that she fears my youngest brother has, in all likelihood, given up God.
And it rejoices. It rejoices when I hear about the spiritual revival of someone in my young adult group. It rejoices when gentle words are exchanged on the Internet, instead of abrasive ones. It rejoices when my sister shares that God has shown her something new.
All this to say…I don’t really know why this sense of empathy (or dare I say, true agape love?!) has welled up in me at the same time that I’ve rejected most of the doctrines of my church as Absolute Truth.
Sorry for the underwhelming ending, but it was the only honest way I could end this post. Maybe I’ll figure out why this correlation is happening sometime in the near future. If I do, I’ll let you know my thoughts.