Saturday, July 17, 2010

Empathy, emotions and the taking of brokenness

For the Village Art Project yesterday we talked about empathy; one definition is, "The capacity to know emotionally what another is experiencing from within the frame of reference of that other person, or the capacity to sample the feelings of another or to put one's self in another's shoes." We talked about how empathy is like walking in someone else’s shoes and trying to understand how someone else feels in different situations.

To practice understanding our emotions, for one of the projects the kids were given a list of emotions - happy, painful, hopeful, peaceful, rejected, forgotten, beautiful, overwhelmed, joyful, ignored, loved, angry, respected, helpless and understood - and they were also given a disposable camera. They were then asked to walk around the Village and take a picture of anything they think represents a particular emotion for them. It's amazing to listen to the kids talk about the pictures they took and why they took them.  The unarticulated reality of their inner experience becomes exposed.  The depth of who they are is accessed, and God's kingdom is somehow breaking-in through them.  Unbelievable.

I decided today that I too need to practice emotions. I decided that I too don't always have the ability, at least to the extent I would like, to help other people "feel felt" and connected to me when they're with me. Generally, that comes from not knowing my emotions well enough. The following is my rendition of the project the kids did yesterday (give grace, please, I'm not much of a photographer). I used the same emotion words the kids used and took my own pictures in the Village.















Jesus is our example of empathy because He did empathy to the fullest extent possible. He became human to experience everything we experience. Then, after He became empathy incarnate, he practiced empathy like only He could by taking upon Himself all of the pain and sadness and suffering there ever has been and ever will be.  He then asks us to do empathy too and understand how much He loves people; how much He loves us.  He asks us to try and love people the same way He does.  Empathy, at least at some level, is about understanding where people come from and trying to feel what they feel, in order to love like Jesus loved. 

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