Daily Devotions
 
Pastor Alice Connor

Daily Devotion

“I don’t know how to explain to you that you should care about other people.”

This sentence is an internet meme, an image or phrase that doesn’t just have a viral moment, it sticks around, comments on all kinds of things. Sometimes people deploy it sarcastically, much of the time with deep pain and frustration. But it speaks to our universal need for empathy. We all want to be understood, for our own pain to be recognized, whatever it is, but we often wrestle with acknowledging other people’s.

In the AntiRacism 101 class Matthew Petersen and I teach, one of the things we talk about is how any one person’s experience is not universal. That is, your experience is real and valid but it’s not the only experience that a human can have. Caring about someone else’s story doesn’t mean you have to agree with their politics or their response to what has happened, it only means you can identify with their pain, you can feel that they are suffering and you suffer with them for a time. It means you care that other people suffer. It also means that you listen for what they’re hoping for, what they need rather than jumping in with what you think is needed. Oof, that’s hard, you guys. 

Buddhist mystic Thich Nhat Hahn offers these phrases to couples, but also to the general public: “Beloved, I see your suffering, I’m here for you.” and “Beloved, I am suffering, please help me.” I love these so much. They acknowledge that the other person is worthy of love, they acknowledge the pain that simply exists without judgment, and they offer support and empathy, not a solution.

When has someone offered you empathy recently? What did it feel like in your mind, in your heart, and in your body to receive that? Can you name a time recently when maybe you were trying to offer empathy, but you can see a little judgement, a little “fixit,” happening? Who could you work on being empathetic towards this week?

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