In order to obey God’s commandment to love our neighbors, we need to consider the perspective of the difficult people in our lives. Having empathy includes understanding that these people have feelings and emotions of their own. Unless we’ve walked in their shoes, we have no idea where they are coming from or what’s weighing on their hearts.
Empathy is different from sympathy. Being sympathetic means having pity and feeling sorry for other people. But when we have empathy, we can truly understand (or at least imagine) the depth of people’s feelings. We feel with people rather than feel sorry for people.
Feeling true empathy can be more than a little challenging when someone is causing us pain and stress. Challenging, yes, but with God’s help, not impossible.
If we have trouble setting boundaries, chances are we have our own issues to deal with, and it’s important that we deal with them. Protecting yourself and not becoming entangled in the emotional state of the difficult person in your life can become tricky. Having empathy does not mean allowing people to mistreat us.
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23
S = STOP repeating the same negative actions and expecting different results
A = ASSEMBLE supportive people around us
N = NIP excuses in the bud
I = IMPLEMENT a plan of action
T = TRUST the voice of the Spirit
Y = YIELD everything to God
Excerpt from Setting Boundaries with Difficult People, (c) 2011, Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Oregon