It is very easy to become cynical and bitter. If you are not careful, you will become a person who finds fault in everyone. When I meet people that have nothing good to say or complain about everything, there is a reason that they have allowed their pain to pierce others. I find myself in awe of how mean people can be. People make fun and pick at individuals without any remorse and sympathy. As the verdict was announced in the murder of George Floyd, the Twitterverse was on high alert making fun of Jessie Jackson. Some of these individuals found it amusing to pick at this man who has spent his life as a civil rights leader fighting for many of the rights they benefit from. They failed to acknowledge that he has Parkinson’s disease which is responsible for his gaze and movement. There is something to be said about a world that has lost compassion and empathy.
It is very easy to feel sorry for others because we do not put ourselves in their shoes. It allows us to detach and see the person as ‘other’. Sympathy does not require much of us. All we do is say or make gestures that appear kind and we can go back to our lives. What we are missing so much of in our lives is empathy. Empathy is more than feeling sorry for someone. It is truly placing yourself in the other person’s shoes. Empathy is about understanding what others go through and sharing with them in their pain. Empathy requires us to be vulnerable and connect to another through our emotions. Empathy is not about minimizing someone’s struggle to make your situation appear greater, it is about being with them and recognizing what they are experiencing. Somewhere along the way, this has become lost. In building our self-esteem and pushing this narrative of putting ourselves first, we have lost the desire to care for others. There is nothing wrong with self-care AND caring for others---and not at the expense of either. They can both co-exist. Bu right now, our world is suffering and so are we.
The Bible says “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. ... (2 Timothy 3:1-17)” Our world is at an extreme of self-centeredness. If we are at the center and everyone is disposable, we often leave out space for God. God is then blamed for all the occurrences in the world when a choice was made to move God from the center. God has been replaced by our own needs, our greed, and our desire to be first. The issues listed in 2 Timothy 3:1-17 all focus on preserving self. It is all about me at the expense and pain of others.
“Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am.” (Mark 8:35 MSG) The solution for this self-centeredness is simple. We must get out of our own way. This requires not only holding others accountable, but we must hold ourselves accountable. The standards for treating one another with kindness and compassion must return. It begins with recognizing that our love walk must be checked. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (Matthew 22:37-39).
Loving God is first. Loving our neighbors is second but if we do not love ourselves, it will be difficult to love our neighbors. Maybe the loss of empathy and compassion for others lies in the loss of love we have for ourselves and God. We cannot be for others what we are not willing to be for ourselves.
I thank God for Mr. Jackson and the many others who deserve our admiration, respect, and love.