Browsed by
Category: Uncategorized

Empathy, Charity’s Compass

Empathy, Charity’s Compass

Empathy is the ability to see, understand and love from deep within another’s soul.  In its highest forms, it does more than respond to the needs of another. It anticipates them. It does not ask, “What can I do for you?”  Rather, it knows what to do and acts without asking. And when it acts, it exposes the hand of God because it delivers ill-equipped humans to the threshold of omniscience.  It transforms what would otherwise be well-intended but misguided acts of kindness into miraculous revelations of God’s love that hit the mark so distinctly that the recipient feels loved and known. If charity is the heart of God, then empathy is the mind of God. Empathy is charity’s compass.

If charity is the heart of God, then empathy is the mind of God.

Unfortunately, most people aren’t good at delivering love to others because they lack empathy.  I was reminded of this recently as I was listening to a woman with a paralyzed stomach (gastroparesis), who could not eat, tell me of how hurtful it was to have friends and neighbors in her church community bring her cookies, treats and goodies to cheer her up.  I experienced this, as well, when I was on a feeding tube.  People tend to deliver what they think is love in ways that they, the deliverer, would feel it.  They also tend to deliver love in ways that are convenient and comfortable for themselves.  This is not love.  I consider the adage “it’s the thought that counts” a soothing balm for the thoughtless that has probably done more damage to living the true gospel taught by Jesus than many other convenient aphorisms.  It’s false doctrine.  Don’t believe it.  The minute you find yourself saying that to excuse your misdelivery of love, repent and vow to do better next time.  Vow to show more empathy.

Delivering love is a skill.

Delivering love is a skill.  It doesn’t necessarily come naturally.  But, like any other skill, it can be learned, practiced and mastered.  You must be committed to practicing because delivering love is the ultimate imperative.  “For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”  (Galatians 5:14.)

There is a deeper meaning to the golden rule, which I now call “the platinum rule.”  The proper interpretation of the golden rule is not “do unto others as you would have done unto you.”  It’s “do unto others as they would have done unto them.”  What is it that “ye would [have] men … do to you?”  To treat you the way you want to be treated.  Jesus understood and taught this simple truth.  Give people what they want:

Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?

Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?

If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

(Matthew 7:9-11.)

If your son asks for bread, don’t give him a rock.  If he needs fish, don’t give him a snake.  It all seems so simple.  But the reason I call this the “platinum rule” is because it takes a higher investment in others to live it.  You have to know people well enough to understand what they want and need.  You have to understand them.  Love takes empathy.

You cannot truly love someone unless you somehow become them and experience their life vicariously.

The whole condescension of God illustrates this.  It teaches that you cannot truly love someone unless you somehow become them and experience their life vicariously and then love them the way they want to be loved.  We can do this through thoughtful focus, using our imagination, listening, seeking the Holy Ghost, earnestly striving to experience the pain and suffering of others, learning how to be more perceptive and many other gifts and talents that we can practice and develop.  I call this practicing at-one-ment.  It is way of learning to identify with others.

Jesus Christ’s love for us is so perfect and complete because, in a literal and figurative sense, he “became us.”  (Hebrews 7:26.)  In fact, “in all things it behooved him to be made like unto” us so “that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.  For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.”  (Hebrews 2:17-18.)

If you want to become a disciple of Jesus you must learn and practice empathy.  I have written an entire chapter about this in my book Built to LoveThere are many excellent resources out there for learning how to develop empathy for others.  I would strongly urge you to seek out these and other resources.  If you lack the ability to properly empathize you cannot deliver love to others as you ought.



Perfection is not the attainment of some static ideal. It is the ability to behold and belove the beauty of the imperfect. We don’t behold the Corona Arch and think, “If only I could shave off a few tons over here and put it over there …. then it would be perfect.” Likewise, we shouldn’t do that to ourselves. We shouldn’t do that to each other.

Instead, we must learn how to stand with awe and wonder at all of God’s incredible works in progress without taint of ego, judgment or thirst to control. That doesn’t mean we ignore reality and call the imperfect perfect. It means that we gaze upon our weather-beaten and wrinkled faces and look into each others’ world-weary eyes with a deep sense of respect. It means that we listen to the relentless winds of chance and circumstance howl, whistle and wend their way through the cracks and crevices of our deepest insecurities, our most cherished relationships, our most exposed and vulnerable parts, and we ask, “How are we still standing?”

Loving what’s broken, bent, shaved off, cut away, beaten down, worn out, fractured and fragile … that’s what makes us perfect. We are all monuments, worthy of being beheld.


A Father’s Day Tribute

A Father’s Day Tribute

Dear Dad,

When I was a kid I didn’t truly appreciate you.  I’ll just say it.  They never told me how hard a man works.  That work slowly kills a man, grinding away at who he was and what he dreamed he’d become, day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute.  Slowly and almost imperceptibly.  They never told me that men die, on average, ten years sooner than women.  They never told me about prostate cancer.  They never told me about depression and anxiety in men.  They never told me any of this.

“Holy crap!!!” …. “How did Dad do this!!!”

Then  one day I became a man.  And I became a father.  And I said to myself, “Holy crap!!!” (Or something along those lines.)  “How did Dad do this!!!”  The treadmill.  The daily grind.  Doing what you have to do to put food on the table and feed the family.  Trying to earn another pay check when the one you just worked your tail off for disappeared in seconds.  That pressure cooker we call “Being a Man.”  I always knew that you were tough.  But experience is the great revelator, isn’t it?  My eyes were opened.  And you–the one who was my rock, my anchor, my hero, the guy who could do anything–grew even more in stature.

I started to feel bad for all the nights I kept you up, worrying if I’d make it home all right.  I started to appreciate those long drives you made from the other side of the state just to make a ball game of mine.  I felt guilty for the times when you finally made it through a week and yearned for time with your family only to see us kids walk out the door and say, “See ya, Dad!  I’m going to hang out with the guys….”  Now I know why you said to us three knucklehead boys, “Look, I don’t care if you beat each other senseless.  Just take it outside.”  I didn’t understand what it was like to be a man and a father.  I just didn’t get it.

I’m sure I still don’t quite get it.  You see, as I see the trail that you are blazing for me, wisdom has taught me that there’s still a lot I don’t know and that there’s so much that I can learn from you.  That’s what scares me–that I don’t even know what I don’t know!  Yes, I’m still that little boy, in a sense, walking behind you with my little plastic push mower as you mow the lawns of life, wanting to be just like you.   I want to have the patience and courage that you have developed by fighting through a broken neck, a spinal cord injury, kidney failure and cancer.  I want to have the strength and humility that you have earned.  I’m not quite there yet.  In fact, I have a long ways to go.  You’re the genuine article.  I feel like a pretender.

I want to spend more time with you.  But, you see, now I’m caught in that daily grind and there’s days I don’t have the energy  to do anything but come home from work, plop down in the recliner, and turn on the ball game.  But maybe we can grab lunch every now and then.  And maybe we can take in a ball game or two here and there.  And we’ll definitely do some fishing.  Oh, and if the Cubs make it to another World Series, I’ll let you be my psychotherapist to help me through it again.  Thank you for that, Dad.  I couldn’t have done it without you.  Every Cubs fan needs a good psychotherapist.  And every boy deserves a Dad like you.

Happy Fathers Day.


These Flowers Remind Me of You

These Flowers Remind Me of You

To my own mother, my mother-in-laws (Carole and Marlene) and, most of all, to the mother of my children …

These flowers remind me of you.  These living paradoxes are delicate but extremely tough and resilient.

They beautify and give life.  They’re put on display.  They’re put in the background.  They rise up.  They’re cut down.  They always come back.

Living embodiments of growth, hope and life.  They endure storms, cold and clouds, heat and drought.  Nurturers of the ecosystem of earth, heart and soul, they rejuvenate, inspire, calm, encourage, embolden and, above all else, endure.

They give more than they take.  Their fragrant beauty makes the world and its inhabitants softer, kinder, gentler.

When the random abuses of nature are heaped upon them, they transform these oppositional forces into something marvelous and miraculous.

Gracious, giving and generous, their strength and beauty give shelter to the lost, rest to the weary, and comfort to the wandering soul.  They adorn all of creation, these emblems of God’s grace, these reflections of God’s face.  They bring you home again and remind you of who you really are and what you can become.  These flowers … they remind me of you.