A few months ago, I heard a speaker mention empathy in his talk, and in that moment God tugged at my heart and I knew I needed to work on this area of my life. Like most of these areas where God is cultivating a fruit in your life I find that He is not developing empathy in me, but instead giving me opportunities to be empathetic.
Just this morning my husband was making the bed and he said, “You know, I’ve made the bed for several days in a row…”
This is a little statement isn’t it? Why is this moment so important? What does it mean? It means I have an opportunity to bring empathy to my marriage.
You see, in the past (and let’s be honest here… even in that moment) my mind starts racing with comebacks like, You know, I’ve washed the dishes for several days in a row… or maybe, You know, you were the last one out of bed and the last one out makes the bed… and the ever popular, You know, they don’t make trophies for that…
In that moment, I wanted to let my husband know how hard I too am always working to keep our house neat and clean, and the best way to do that would be to pop off some of those comments that flew through my mind right? Probably not.
Let’s pause here and look up the definition of empathy:
Wow. So how am I going to be empathetic in this moment of a silly comment about making the bed? Well first, I need to identify with the feelings and thoughts of my husband. Instead of popping off a comment about myself (which would only be a pathetic attempt at getting him to recognize how much I do around our home, which would have only minimized his feelings and probably start an argument about who does more work…), I took a moment to think about why my husband felt like telling me he had made the bed for several days in a row. Ding! It’s probably because the #1 need of most men is to feel appreciated!! Not only that, but when I really think about it, I know he’s only making the bed because he knows how much that means to me (being a crazy person who feels like her whole life is disheveled if the bed isn’t made) and he’s putting me before himself. He’s taking time out of his morning routine to do something that matters to me. That’s love right there my friends.
It’s truly amazing how fast a woman’s brain will zip through everything I’ve mentioned above. And luckily this time I was “slow to speak” and came to the right conclusion before spouting off. I chose empathy. This time my comment to my husband was, “You’re right. You’ve done a great job of making the bed lately. Thank you for doing that… and thank you for working so hard for me.”
No fighting. No hurt feelings. No need to put myself out there as better than him. Nothing but my husband gleaming with a glow of feeling loved and appreciated. And guess what? The next time the bed is unmade he will probably think back to my comment of appreciation and make the bed again.
Empathy is probably one of the hardest things to express, especially in our current culture of selfishness. The World says, “It’s all about YOU!” but God says, “It’s all about others.” Take time this week to think about ways you can be empathetic to your spouse. You might be surprised how much better your marriage becomes when a person chooses empathy.
Scriptures for Meditation
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Eph 4:32
“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Eph 4:29