A haunting and beautiful paradox spanning humanity is that we are all, at our core, the same, yet we are all uniquely our own beings.
We may wear our emotions differently, but fear, pain, anger, confusion, joy, happiness, and gratitude are strangers to none. We see, both in times of tragedy and celebration, that when people come together, deep inside us we have more in common than what’s projected on the surface.
Our overarching dreams and needs are the same: to be safe, to provide for ourselves and those we hold dear, to make a difference,to love, and to be loved.
God purposefully threaded the fabric of humankind with likeness just as He gave us all our one-of-a-kind patches that don’t define our worth but do testify to our individuality. Even identical twins aren’t completely identical. While knitting us in the womb, God intended that every fiber identifying us as an original would connect with the soul-pieces everyone claims.
When slapped and stunned by the immeasurable amounts of sadness and agony assaulting far too many lives, I fight the urge to push away the negative narratives that I don’t fully understand. Because that’s easy to do, isn’t it? For me it is. It’s far too easy to avert my eye, draw my arms close to my chest, shake my head and whisper I’ll think about this later or I haven’t experienced that, so I don’t have the right to say anything.
Sometimes I do the reverse. A friend will tell me about a travesty, a deep hurt, or an injustice, and I quickly respond with an opinion that while well-intentioned, wasn’t life-bringing because I simply didn’t take time to examine the nuanced angles of the matter. Neither shying away nor rushing in to assuage an aching soul.
I’ve learned that in order to respond with sincere empathy, I need to embrace what I know and don’t know about the feelings of the wounded. I need to discover the common emotions that can build a bridge to the unshared experience. Not compare my pain to theirs, but to see a reflection of my hurt so my heart stays soft and my compassion flows vibrant.
I don’t know how it feels to be rejected, hated, disparaged, or considered untrustworthy because of the color of my skin. And I certainly can’t grasp the brokenness in people who stick to racist beliefs like gum on a shoe sole. I do know how it feels to be hated for merely existing. I’m familiar with the tender-to-the-touch emotional scar tissue that reminds me of the gaping soul-wounds gouged into the marrow of my being.
I don’t know the struggle of not identifying with my gender. I was born with the chromosomes of a woman and I can’t imagine wanting to be anything but a woman. I do know the blistering pain of feeling like there was something innately wrong with me in need of fixing. I know the loneliness, fear, and anxiety of wondering if God’s only mistake was making me.
I don’t know the frustration and helplessness driven by an addiction. I’ve never been burdened with an all-consuming desire to chase and consume a substance over and over again while knowing that doing so could kill me and destroy my family. I do know how it feels to have the chemicals in my brain spin and sputter out of control. I stared down the confusion of sensing that something outside of myself is dictating my behavior and for the only way to stop it would be to no longer exist.
If we’re not careful, we can look at the plight of another and say, Oh, she’s nothing like me. I could never act like that. Or we can build another type of wall by thinking, I know nothing about her loss, so I’m not even going to try to say anything about this because my words will only get in the way. That’s how we disconnect from one another, how we forget we need each other, how we unknowingly distance ourselves from loving our neighbor in the spirit Jesus asks us to love.
Let’s allow Jesus’ words in Mark 12:30-32 to stir us into action every time we’re tempted to turn away from trying to understand and comfort another.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself.There is no commandment greater than these.”
So when a friend is facing something so big that you can’t wrap your mind around it, or when you turn on the news and hear of yet another distressing story or event, first admit what you don’t know, second identify the common emotions, then proceed boldly with love.
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
When something happens to someone I love (or even someone I don’t really know), perhaps something I don’t grasp or understand, I try to take my cues from Jesus about what to do and how to approach. I may not fully grasp the depths of what they are going through, but I do understand the depths of pain. When Jesus first approached the sisters Mary and Martha upon the death of their brother, Lazarus, He didn’t SAY much of anything…it’s what He did…He wept with them. He set aside His agenda and He was just there for them in their pain. He let His human side of knowing what it means to hurt touch their human hurting. He simply held them and wept. The next thing He did was to pray. The very last thing He did was raise Lazarus from the dead. Here was the “Man” who could fix anything whenever He wanted to, but his first instinct was to allow himself to feel their pain. I believe that sharing in someone’s pain is one of the most selfless things we can do – let our humanity touch theirs. Thank you for an absolutely beautiful post this morning!
“Here was the “Man” who could fix anything whenever He wanted to, but his first instinct was to allow himself to feel their pain. I believe that sharing in someone’s pain is one of the most selfless things we can do – let our humanity touch theirs.” Love this, Bev.
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
Angela Nazworth says
Bev, I just love what you wrote here. “He let His human side of knowing what it means to hurt touch their human hurting.” May we all take our cues from Jesus.
So well said. Thank you for sharing. This truly blessed me this morning.
Angela Nazworth says
Thank you, Lesley.
Hi Angela, yes, God purposefully created us to be more alike in our needs than different so that we could share and help one another in the hard. Our life experiences may be different at any given moment, but our humanness is the same. Thank you for sharing this.
Thank-you so much Angela for sharing this message with us,
Awareness of the suffering of others, although we may not understand it, feeling it, defines humanity. And (To not only reserve it for humans).
Angela, I really like this. You covered every “thing” we’ve read in the news of late. Your perspective was pure and good. Thank you.
Angela Nazworth says
Thank you, Susan. There have been so many issues on my heart … on all of our hearts .. and I wanted to address those issues in a loving way without enticing a debate.
Karina Allen says
Sorry I didn’t get a chance to comment sooner! This was really good Angela! So insightful and filled with practicality. You bless me sister! I am following your lead!
This was SO good. There are several close to me facing things that I don’t understand. Yesterday I battled feelings of frustration and judgment and had to keep coming back to the idea that I just did not understand! THANKS for articulating this idea so well. I am saving this to come back to as it is a GREAT reminder!
Christina Drake (Sunshine) says
I love this:) So true. It comes natural to quickly think that there is no possible way we would ever do what another person did or say what another person said and have a vibe of judgement against the person. I’m ashamed to say I have done this.
The more I learn the heart of God, He never looked at things this way. He loves all of His creation and is available to all.
“Isaiah 11:3- And shall make Him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and He shall not judge after the sight of His eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of His ears:”
I pray I can give an example of Jesus and not judge with the judgement that comes naturally from my sin nature, but that He will make me of quick understanding and I can see others in the Light of my new nature in Christ Jesus.
This story is an inspirational one. Thank you for posting:)
Beth Williams says
Great post! Galatians 6:2 “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” Some versions say carry. Jesus wants us to empathize with one another. Sometimes it may just look like sitting with someone while they grieve a loss, cooking a meal for someone ill, send cards, etc. No words need be spoken, just being there and letting the person know you care is good enough! Since Jesus gave up the Glory of Heaven for us we should/must do this for others. There have been times when knowing a situation I will send money anonymously just to let the person know someone cares!