Daily Living

A Missing Characteristic in How People Respond to Tragedy

Attachment-1If you’ve paid any attention at all to the news recently, you’ve seen the headlines  “Alligator Drags off Boy at Disney Florida Resort” and “Mass Shooting at an Orlando Night Club.” As I watch and listen to the sad stories of loss, what comes after makes my heart hurt even more as ugly comments take over our social media newsfeeds. How often I hear and read the phrase, “He/she deserves it” when it comes to a tragedy. I cringe in my spirit when these words are spewed. There are people who simply cannot offer graciousness and kindness unless they approve of the conditions before the tragedy. They become the judge and the tragedy becomes justified in their mind.

What’s missing here? What is lacking that allows people to be so far removed from the heartache of the situation that they state heartless comments?

My opinion is that there is one characteristic, besides love itself, that is missing from an increasingly large number of people.

Empathy.

Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

Can you place yourself in the shoes of the Mom and Dad who lost their child to the alligator? Or is the first question you ask “why did it happen?” so that you can make the decision to not care based on your opinion of whether or not the parents were being negligent.

Can you place yourself in the shoes of the family and friends of the people who were killed in the nightclub as they are hurting and struggling to deal with losing their friend or family member? Or is the first thing you do to dismiss it or even spew hatred when hearing it was a Gay club?

These are just two incidents out of many and happen to be on a large scale. There are also many times I hear this attitude in my community. Something happens in which a person is hurting, deeply hurting, and we want to find out the scope of the story so we can become the judge about whether or not we should and will feel compassion toward that person. A man dies or was paralyzed in a car wreck after taking the wheel while intoxicated and we decide he deserved it without any thought of what his family may be going through. A girl is raped after being promiscuous throughout her life and we decide she deserved it without any thought or concern to what this girl may be going through. A family goes bankrupt after mismanaging money and we decide they deserve it despite the fact that they are in pain and could really use our emotional support.

Well guess what? So do all of us. We deserve death (Romans 6:23). And you are no better than anyone else. Thank God He shows us grace when we don’t deserve it. Thank God He treats us better than we treat each other. None of us deserve good. We are a fallen people who without Jesus’ sacrifice would never measure up to receive the reward that will soon be ours. We are human and all fail and make mistakes.

Yes, there are consequences to people’s actions. Many times when people sin and make poor choices, there are consequences that hurt. I’m not disputing that. I am however wanting to make a point that it’s not our job to inflict further pain on these people by spewing our insensitive comments. It’s our job, our commandment, to love each other as Christ loves us. And He shows us grace.

Let’s stop judging a situation to determine if the hurting is justified, and just love on people that are hurting. Let’s learn how to be more empathetic, be conscious of it, and pray for it when needed. Let’s teach our children to think about what another person might be feeling and help them understand the feelings rather than only searching for the “why.”

Let’s make a decision to treat others the way we would want to be treated.

I’d love to see what would happen if we kicked the attitude of superiority to the curb and started supporting each other through the hard times. There are times that I do deserve the hurt I feel because of my actions. But it’s not up to others to make those judgments and condemn me for it. That’s an issue between me and God. The hurt itself is enough without the condemning spirit of others looking down on you and hurting you further.
Empathy is the missing component and we as a family, community, state, nation and world need to start teaching our children this important characteristic. Without it, we will only get more calloused to the hurts of others and further away from the heart of God.

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