Empathize with the Hurt {Mantra 7}

When You Disagree

I see her Facebook post. I disagree. How could she think this???

My mind starts thinking of all the things I can write in the comments. Doesn’t someone need to let her know she is wrong? In a nice way, of course. 

But the more I think it through, the more I realize none of those things would help.

I remember instead:

Empathize with the hurt.

At the Bottom? Pain

Underneath our anger, cynicism, confusion, you’ll often find pain.

Maybe that’s what we should be looking for.

I’ve had friends do this for me lately. A lot. Instead of discussing our theories on this or that, they look at my soul and see my pain.

  • They sit down beside me.
  • They listen to my hurt. 
  • They tell me they love me. 

And I feel better.

Empathy or Sympathy?

Empathy feels much different than pity. Empathy is even different than sympathy. 

Empathy is best.

According to Brené Brown in her new book Atlas of the Heart (I highly recommend it!), we often give just sympathy when we’re focused on our own discomfort more than on the other person’s distress.

“Sympathy is removed: When someone says, ‘I feel sorry for you’ or ‘That must be terrible,’ they are standing at a safe distance. Rather than conveying the powerful ‘me too’ of empathy, it communicates ‘not me,’ then adds, ‘But I do feel sorry for you.’”

But empathy feels close. Empathy communicates me too.

But what if we haven’t been in the same situation as our friend who needs our empathy?

Brené Brown says, 

“Empathy is not relating to an experience, it’s connecting to what someone is feeling about an experience.

And we all can do that. 

Even for ourselves. When no one else is giving you the support you’d like, empathize with yourself.

Jesus empathizes with you. He knows your pain. Jesus came in the flesh to tell you “me too.” Hear his empathy through the voices of others and through his Spirit living inside you as you empathize with yourself.

The Hurt, Not the Argument

My fingers hover above my keyboard. I’m rethinking how I should respond to my friend’s Facebook post.

Yes, there are some facts and figures I can argue. But within her status, she is revealing a deep hurt. 

It is the hurt that needs healing, not the facts that need correcting.

I craft my response to her differently with this in mind. Although there are occasions when we must discuss the issues at hand, this isn’t one of those times. In this case, those facts aren’t pertinent; they’re just peripheral. I release them.

Instead, I zero in on her hurt. To let her know I’m listening. I’m seeing. I’m with her in this.

Sometimes that’s what matters the most.  

That’s the kind of friend I like to have. So that’s the kind of friend I need to be.

Empathize with the hurt. 

Do you have friends who see your pain and empathize? Share in the comments.

Read More:

You are on Day #7 of the series: Find Your Mantra {28 Daily Mantras}

Find Your Mantra: 28 Daily Mantras

I don’t know” {Mantra 6}

Tell something personal” {Mantra 8}

14 thoughts on “Empathize with the Hurt {Mantra 7}

  1. Lynn D. Morrissey

    Hurting people hurt people. I love this saying, and I think there’s a lot of truth in it. Often people lash out because of their own personal pain. Granted, if they are lashing out at me, personally, it’s easier not to apply, but it is important to remember, as this wonderful post of yours, Lisa, testifies! Thank you for the important reminder. Also, I love Webster’s 1828 dictionary, because I enjoy words and also reading older definitions. I was fascinated that at time, the word “empathy” did not exist. I found this short video about the difference between empathy and sympathy to be fascinating and it drives home your point. Thank you again for sharing!

  2. Theresa Boedeker

    Focusing on the hurt behind the words is such good advice. Imagine if this was what we all did? Our mental health would be way better. For both them and us. Trying to argue the facts when they are hurting is like trying to talk sense into a toddler that’s having a tantrum. It is not possible. And yet, I have tried.

  3. Maryleigh

    My MIL could empathize – it was a gift she had. She could crawl down into the hole with you and help you bear your pain. You say it so well, “connecting to what someone is feeling about an experience.”

  4. Katie Dale

    I am so thankful for the people in my life who’ve shown me empathy, even sympathy at times when they couldn’t say, “Me too,” but offered their condolences. Compassion is something I need to strive for and remind myself to have toward others in their trials, hurts injustices. it’s easier to say they are wrong, they don’t know what they’re talking about, rather than listen to understand the see the deeper place they are coming from. Thank you for this reminder.

  5. Maree Dee

    Such beautiful words of wisdom. Have you ever seen the clip from Brene Brown on Empathy and Sympathy? It is hilarious and gets the point across? You have challenged me to pause and recognize what I am offering—sympathy or empathy? Thank you. I love that you address when we can’t relate to another’s pain. That was my question as I read.

    Many times I have gotten sympathy that only made me feel worse. But I have some fantastic friends who haven’t clue what I am going through that offer empathy even when they don’t understand. It’s a gift.


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