I am one of the most sympathetic people I know. Seriously. I can just feel what people are feeling. I mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that need comfort. People just tug at my heart strings. I think that is one of my greatest strengths. But then there is empathy. Empathy is something that endows a gift of charity. It obliterates every judgment, every grudge, every misunderstanding. It helps us truly understand a person, all guards down, because we know where they have been. We have been there too. It forges a different kind of bond with people. You don’t just feel their pain, you know and experience it too. I look at my closest friends and reflect on what has made us so close: it’s empathy.
Every time a big storm blows into town, I can feel it in my right hand. It aches and I hate straightening out my last two fingers. I tend to think I have arthritis in those joints but only feel it when the pressure drastically changes, though I haven’t seen a doctor. Two weeks ago, a big storm rolled in. I realized that’s why my hand was hurting. The pain was acute and lasted for about a week. I started worrying that it wouldn’t go away and all the implications that would involve: like having scary fingers and having to learn to write with my left hand. I complained about it to my mom and then realized what a wimp I was. Alana had been practically bed ridden for months last year because of that kind of pain all over her body. My heart hurt so much for her during that time and I wished there was something I could do for her. I was filled with that sympathy. As I whined to my mom, I realized that now I had a taste of what it was like. And then I realized that not only did Alana experience the physical pain that arthritis brings, but she also had to deal with a lot of fear.
I had been expressing wimpathy. I don’t think I could handle that! And I am grateful that she is so strong and able to handle such a difficult trial. But now I can look at it differently. Because although I don’t have a clue what it would feel like to have sore and stiff joints all over my body, I have had a little taste of the pain it involves. I have developed a little bit of empathy, and my respect and love for my little sister has grown by leaps and bounds.
I think it is empathy which draws us closer to the Savior. He understands our pain because he experienced it. And because he understands, it draws out a different kind of love and trust from us. It sort of binds us closer. At times, he will let us have a glimmer of understanding what he has gone through, that is when we are humbled and our love and gratitude for Him become more solidified. When He does that, He gives us the gift of empathy, and with it, charity.