I’ll bear your burdens, if…

Sorry I’ve been curiously absent lately.  It isn’t because God isn’t speaking to me, but because I don’t really know how to share the things that He has been speaking to me about.  I mean, I think there are things that I need to write about, but I need to do it without being a jerk.  God has been teaching me some things about myself and about how He builds His church.  Really interesting stuff.  So, here goes.

Galatians 6:2–Bear (endure, carry) one another’s burdens and troublesome moral faults, and in this way fulfill and observe perfectly the law of Christ (the Messiah) and complete what is lacking [in your obedience to it].

Romans 12:15–Rejoice with those who rejoice [sharing others’ joy], and weep with those who weep [sharing others’ grief].

I’ve never really thought of myself as a particularly sensitive person.  Not that I don’t get hurt easily, because I do, but that I don’t really empathize well.  Most of the reason for that is the fact that I don’t tolerate stupidity well.  People who bring bad things on themselves by their poor decisions get very little sympathy from me.

I’ve only recently noticed (although, in talking to my hubby about it, apparently it is obvious to him and maybe everybody else), that I am in fact a very empathetic person.  The only thing is I only empathize with people I care deeply about.  I think, however, that there is more to it than just feeling the pain of those that I love.  Because sometimes I can be really hard with those people, too.  So, what is the thing that determines if I feel your pain or not?  The answer surprised me a little bit.

You see, the same people whose decisions I look at with scorn and anger are the ones that I weep with and whose burdens I bear at other times.  The difference between the two responses is this: the individual’s willingness to accept responsibility for their situation.  If somebody’s pain is due to circumstances out of their control, then I feel for them if they are somebody close to me or not.  If they are the reason that they are suffering (by making poor decisions), then I usually just get angry about their decisions (even to the point that I don’t listen when they are complaining about their pain), unless they admit it is their own fault.  If they admit it is at least partly their own fault, then my heart gets the okay from my brain to hurt for them.

It isn’t a conscious decision.  I don’t look at somebody’s situation and say, “they meet my empathy criteria.”  It’s just a pattern that I can see when I look at my life and my interactions with those people in my life who are suffering.  I’m not saying that it is right.  I’m also not saying that it is wrong.  I’m just saying that is how it is.

So, take that for what it is: a glimpse at my inner workings.  If I have ever seemed like I didn’t care when things were not going well for you, it might be because of this filter that I’m only now discovering that I have.  It is also probably because of this filter that I find it hard to share my burdens with others (if I have a filter like this, others might, too).

Do you have these kinds of filters through which you view the people around you?  What are your thoughts?

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