Summary: Our world is becoming a more hate-filled place, where people have less empathy and compassion for others. In contrast to that, the people of God are called to live lives of love, empathy and compassion, because God has loved us and poured His love into our hearts.
A. One day a man was crossing the street to visit his neighbor.
1. As he started to cross the street, a car was bearing down on him, so he stopped and backed up to the curb.
2. The car stopped, so he started to cross, and the car started to move toward him.
3. The man changed direction and went back to the curb and the car turned and moved toward him.
4. The man then started to run across the street and the car swerved in that direction.
5. The man moved left and the car moved left. Then he moved right and the car moved right.
6. Finally the man just stopped in the middle of the road and the car screeched to a stop right in front of him.
7. The man walked around to the driver’s window and as the window rolled down, the man was surprised to see a squirrel was the driver.
8. The squirrel said to the man, “So now you know how it feels to be me.”
B. I wish there was an easy way for all of us to know what it feels like to be someone else.
1. That’s really what empathy is.
2. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
3. It means to have affinity with, rapport with, sympathy with, understanding of, sensitivity toward, identification with, and awareness of others and their feelings and experiences.
4. Do you think empathy is something we need more of in our world today?
5. Do you think empathy is something we need more of in our church today?
C. Unfortunately, we tend to live in bubbles and we only know and understand our own feelings and our own experiences, and those of people who are closest to us, or most like us.
1. Empathy is not equally developed and present in everyone, and it is downright missing in some cases.
2. In my research for today’s sermon, I came across a term that I didn’t know existed, called “Empathy Deficit Disorder.”
3. In an article from Psychology Today, Dr. Douglas LaBier (Ph.D.) wrote: “It’s possible that you're among the large number of people who suffer from EDD. No, that isn’t a typo, I don’t mean ADD or ED. It’s EDD, for “Empathy Deficit Disorder.”
I made it up, so you won't find it listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Normal variations of mood and temperament are increasingly redefined as new “disorders,” so I’m hesitant to suggest a new one. But this one’s real, and it’s becoming more pronounced in today’s world.
I’ve identified it from my decades of experience as a business psychologist, psychotherapist, and researcher into adult development. From that triple vantage point, I’ve concluded that Empathy Deficit Disorder is a pervasive but overlooked condition. In fact, our increasingly polarized social and political culture of the past few years reveals that EDD is more severe than ever. It has profound consequences for the mental health of both individuals and society. Yet it’s ignored as a psychological disturbance by most of my colleagues in the mental health professions.
First, some explanation of what I mean by EDD: When you suffer from it you’re unable to step outside yourself and tune in to what other people experience, especially those who feel, think, and believe differently from yourself. That makes it a source of personal conflicts, of communication breakdown in intimate relationships, and of adversarial attitudes, including hatred, towards groups of people who differ in their beliefs, traditions, or ways of life from your own.”
Dr. LaBier goes on to say: “Empathy is different from sympathy. Sympathy reflects understanding another person’s situation but viewed through your own lens. That is, it’s based on your version of what the other person is dealing with… In contrast, empathy is what you feel only when you can step outside of yourself and enter the internal world of the other person. There, without abandoning or losing your own perspective, you can experience the other’s emotions, conflicts, or aspirations from within the vantage point of that person’s world.”
D. Developing this kind of empathy isn’t easy, but it is what God wants us, His church, to do.
1. The apostle Peter puts it very well in 1 Peter 3:8-9, “Finally, all of you be like-minded and sympathetic, love one another, and be compassionate and humble, not paying back evil for evil or insult for insult but, on the contrary, giving a blessing, since you were called for this, so that you may inherit a blessing.”
2. The key words I want us to focus on are “sympathetic, compassionate and humble.”
3. They all are extensions or descriptions of love, but they are so helpful because the word love can be so general and nebulous.