By Rick Warren — Jul 20, 2017
Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2 NLT).
If sensitivity to others’ needs begins with your eyes, then sympathy for their hurt begins with your ears. You have to learn to listen! The better listener you become, the more sympathetic you will be.
It’s not enough to just see someone’s need. You must also feel that person’s emotions. You must sympathize with the pain. The Bible says in Luke 10:33b that when the Good Samaritan saw the robbed and beaten man on the side of the road, “his heart was filled with pity” (GNT). First, his eyes kicked in. Then his ears and his heart kicked in, and he sympathized with the man in need.
Sometimes all it takes to show kindness is just listening. In fact, advice-giving can be counterproductive to kindness. Joe Bayly wrote in his book on grief, The View from a Hearse, “I was sitting, torn by grief, and somebody came along and talked to me about God’s dealings of why it happened, of hope beyond the grave. He talked constantly. He said things I knew were true. But I was unmoved, except to wish that he would go away. And he finally did. Then another one came and sat beside me, and he didn’t talk at all. He didn’t ask me any leading questions. He just sat beside me for an hour or more, listened when I said something, answered briefly, prayed simply, and left. I was moved. I was comforted. I hated to see him go.”
Sympathy involves the ears. Listening is a form of kindness.
Sympathy meets two of your basic needs: the need to be understood and the need to have your feelings validated. When you’re hurting, it’s comforting to know that you’re not crazy, that what you feel is normal, and that other people have felt it before.
The Bible says, “Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2 NLT).
What is the law of Christ? It’s called the Great Commandment: “Love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Do you like people to sympathize with you when you’re hurting emotionally, physically, or spiritually? Of course. The Bible says do the same for others.
Talk It Over
- What does it mean to actively listen to someone?
- Why is it sometimes difficult to listen instead of talk to someone who’s hurting?
- How can you sympathize with someone who is going through something that you’ve never experienced?