I was watching a documentary about different types of love and relationships a few months ago, and they brought up empathy as a key building block in relationships. I agree with this, but what really got me thinking was the wording used when defining empathy. In the documentary empathy was defined as the ability to put your self aside in order to identify with or experience the feelings, thoughts or attitudes of another.
When I heard it defined with the additional wording of PUT YOUR SELF ASIDE, I immediately thought of when Jesus said to deny your self.
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”
Did Jesus mean for us to empathize with others when he said to deny ourselves? I am starting to think this is what he meant.
In the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says, ” You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”
How can one truly turn the other cheek? Is the answer to this also empathy?
If you resist your anger towards the person who has struck you (Are you denying yourself?), and instead attempt to empathize with that person, understand that the obstacles and difficulties of their life, their story have brought them to this moment and that although their physical anger was finally triggered by the current moment shared with you, their emotional anger has probably been building for quite some time and has very little to do with you.
Once you can empathize with this person, does it become a little easier to deny your self/deny your anger and turn the other cheek?
Jesus said, “Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” It is “Our Best Life”, let’s say it, believe it, live it and wish for it everyday for EVERYONE!