Everyone wants to be understood. When you take the time to truly listen to a person and tune in to their needs and understand them, you can create a dynamic level of connection. Listening is the foundation of empathy. Empathy promotes growth and healing like no other relational tool. With this post, I want to discuss how practicing empathy can help you produce great leadership growth and powerful healing.
I need empathy in my life because of its power to produce leadership growth and healing. Regardless of the difficult circumstances and emotional struggles I’ve faced in my life, I must be on the receiving end of empathy if want to continue to be able to give empathetically and be effective in what I do. Thankfully, I have a few friends who understand empathy really well and are able to provide empathy to me when my life gets chaotic and my vision is clouded by circumstances. These friends are able to tune in to what's going on within me and help me see my issues more clearly. The best way for a person to understand what is really going on under the surface in any situation is to practice empathy.
One time, in particular, I was struggling with some insecurities related to the very content that I produce, and I was feeling very inadequate. A friend listened to me voice my concerns and reflected on the content and the emotion he sensed in me. I suddenly felt the relational closeness and reassurance of our friendship through the empathy he displayed. I was then able to examine the underlying emotions and circumstances causing my feelings of inadequacy and figure out why I was experiencing those emotions. I actually uncovered some things that I didn’t even realize were there and recognized opportunities for character growth. I was able to work through my circumstances and push past those negative emotions in a quick and healthy way. It’s amazing that I was able to learn so much about myself just by having someone truly tune in and listen to me. The power of empathy allowed me to grow and heal from the inside out.
Empathy is important and effective in relationships, especially leadership relationships. Emotion doesn’t need to be met with logic, facts, and perspective. Emotion needs to be met with emotion. Let me say it another way; meeting a negative emotion like anger, sadness, or disappointment with advice, logic, or confrontation usually causes people to shut down and increases their frustration. The situation can quickly get out of hand. People already know what they need to do in most circumstances; they simply need to be heard. They need to know that someone is willing to connect with them in a deep way and understand them.
Emotion must be met with emotion. When we slow down to provide this for a person in need, we give that person life-changing relational nutrients. They feel a connection that can't come any other way. When two people communicate with their feelings, true bonding can take place.
As leaders who seek to be influential, we must interact with people from a wide variety of different cultures, characteristics, and opinions. To do this effectively, we need the common language of empathy. However, we don't simply need to give empathy; we as leaders need to receive empathy as well. Many pastors and Christian leaders are really good at giving empathy, yet they struggle with receiving empathy from others. It is really important that we take care of our own selves and place ourselves in positions to experience the growth and healing power of empathy.
We need to feel understood by others, and we also need to feel a sense of care and acceptance from others. This will help equip us to do the hard things that are required in our jobs and ministries and to do them for long periods of time. Paul says in Ephesians 4:1-2, “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love.” It's very clear from this scripture that what we do in our vocations is deeply connected to the way that we relate to each another in love.
Ephesians 4:11-13 continues, “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” God gives us people in our lives to help us become mature Christians who fully represent Christ. We have to be willing to get involved in the messiness of each another's lives. We have to learn to connect and love each other in a way that is more like Christ. The Lord gave us empathy to be able to make this happen. Empathy is the tool that can help bring growth and healing to our lives and the lives of others.
Empathy sets the stage for growth and healing; it provides a rich, non-judgmental atmosphere that brings us near to each other, allowing us to bond in a way that promotes growth and healing. Empathy makes it possible for true transformation to actually happen.
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