by Emily Conrad
An email from a writing acquaintance (I’m using that term loosely–we’ve rubbed shoulders a couple of times on Twitter, and I subscribe to her emails) dropped into my inbox this morning, announcing the day of her book release had finally arrived.
I made sure to share about the launch on Twitter because I’ve seen firsthand how much it helps to have others pitch in with spreading the word about a new title. Doesn’t A Place to Land by Kate Motaung look like a gorgeous-inside-and-out memoir?
I recognize it shouldn’t have taken launching my own book for me to be sensitive to the need to help spread word of mouth. I should’ve known without having to experience it, and yet, here I am.
Our experiences can make us more generous, and then we wish we’d done things differently in the past.
We didn’t know back then, though.
There’s much I haven’t experienced, many people who need love and care and help and friendship, and I’m convicted that having walked in their shoes should not be a prerequisite to stepping up.
How can we cultivate generous compassion for others when we haven’t walked in their shoes?
We can read widely
I read a story involving a miscarriage today. I also read a blog post about a girl whose teacher decided to rename her in class to a name that was easier for the teacher to pronounce. I intend to read a book I’ve seen on how to be a good friend and support to singles.
I haven’t experienced a miscarriage, such disregard for my ethnic identity, or singleness as an adult, but I want to practice compassion to those in my life who have and do. Reading can’t hope to expose me to all the emotion or nuances or experiences. I’ll always have so much to learn. But reading can give me the smallest place to grip as I look to pick up compassion and carry it into relationships.
We can listen closely–and act on what we hear
People tell us what they need or want from us, but they often do it in ways that are easy to ignore or forget because they feel like they’re imposing on the relationship.
“It’d be nice to have dinner together more often.”
“I wish I could get a fresh set of eyes on this manuscript.”
“I love it when someone ______________.”
And that might be all they say.
It’s so easy for conversation to keep right on flowing or for excuses to intrude.
I know because my own requests have at times been set aside and I haven’t put up much of a fight–though if the person had followed through, the gesture would’ve meant a lot to me. And I’ve caught myself doing the same to others.
Often, fulfilling requests involve time and effort. Sometimes, they involve sharing something we feel we’ve worked hard for. Sometimes, it’s about our comfort zones. Often, the other person lets us off the hook easily.
But in this case, easy leads directly to lonely.
Can and should we do everything for everyone? No, of course not. But positive communication on both sides can help us express our true needs and identify what is truly important to those we’re called to love.
By listening to and acting on our loved ones’ heartfelt requests, we can show people we love them as much as we claim to.
We can pray
God loves each and every one of us and is intimately acquainted with our needs and struggles. Who better to instill in us love and compassion for others, whatever their situation may be, than their Maker?
I save this for last because I want it to stick in all of our minds more than the other tips. This is the most important of the three–we love because He first loved us, so how can we dream of doing this without Him? We can’t.
God is in the business of changing hearts. Let’s allow Him to change us.
Hands with cherry blossom flowers photo by Chungkuk Bae on Unsplash
Holding hands photo by Matheus Ferrero on Unsplash
Prayer photo by Olivia Snow on Unsplash
GREAT post Emily!
Thanks for the reminder to be more compassionate and listen better
Good luck and God's blessings
Thanks, Pam! I'm glad it resonated with you.
Great post. Something I am always attempting to do better.
Me, too! Thanks, Katie!
So well said, Emily! I love your tips for cultivating more compassion and empathy for people. And the point you make on the importance of ACTING on that empathy is so key. And especially what I need to work on. 🙂 Thanks for the challenge!
Thank you, Jerusha! Yes, acting on those ideas to bless others is challenging but necessary!