Sunday, March 1, 2015

Celebrating the gift of empathy

Jeff Nelson, courtesy of  Coffeehouse Contemplative.
A perfect Sunday morning read: The Gift, by Jeff Nelson. The gift of which he speaks is empathy, and as I read his post my own empathy welled up for Jeff, and tears came to my eyes:

One of my father's most treasured memories of when I was maybe 3 years old was a moment when he was seated as his desk, the burdens of the world weighing heavily on his shoulders, and I climbed into his lap and just cuddled with him. I apparently sensed what he needed, and I provided it as best as a toddler knew how to do.

I'm glad for that story, and I've mostly been glad for this gift that I've apparently been given. I don't really brag about it, because I don't think it's something brag-worthy. It's not only the nature of the gift, you understand. It's also that I haven't always been proud of it, or wanted it.

I was the kid on the playground who got upset when watching two classmates fight. I was the sensitive guy in high school who was the safe confidant for those around him. I was the guy basically holding pastoral counseling sessions in his dorm room in college, because I was always the good listener, the dependable one who'd be there for others in a pinch, the one who'd defer to other's stated desires at the expense of his own.

A guy like me can get taken advantage of fairly easily. I can point back to many instances over the years when my needs took a backseat to those of others. But people saw this as a commendable thing. They'd even offer compliments and reassurances to that effect. At times, there's a fine line between sincere appreciation and ass-kissing, but I took it as a reaffirmation that I'd been given something. A gift. The type of gift that a good pastor needs.

This is what I was told over and over. "You're such a great listener." "You're always there when I need something." "Finally, someone I can trust."

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