Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Gift of Empathy

This afternoon one of my precious friends called to wish me a Happy Valentine's Day. Part of the way into our conversation, I shared with her something that happened yesterday that triggered a place of wounding deep within my soul. It was something that I had been holding onto and desperately needed to get it out. I knew that only a handful of people in my life would understand without me needing to explain the history. She's the type of friend who I can share openly without feeling the need to edit my words or the erratic emotions attached to them. I knew from past experience that it was safe to be completely honest and real with her.

The response I received from her immediately brought tears to my eyes. She spoke words of love, compassion and understanding. The soothing sound of her voice washed over my soul and touched me in a such a profound way. I knew that in the midst of my venting, she had truly heard my pain. She responded to that tender place within me that desperately yearned to be acknowledged. I hadn't even recognized the overwhelming need within me, but yet, my friend did.

Yesterday, I had stuffed the triggered emotions (grief, sorrow, frustration, loss, anger, and hopelessness, to name just a few), and tried to act like the incident hadn't bothered me. Not only did my sweet friend allow me to share my heart, but she acknowledged my feelings. She reflected back to me all she had heard me share and sincerely acknowledged my pain and struggle. She gave me a truly unexpected and delightful gift. Something that I had been subconsciously aching for, but hadn’t even acknowledged myself. She gave me the gift of empathy.

I heard it in the tone of her voice; I heard it through the words she spoke; and, I most definitely felt it the way she was able to focus on what I was saying while her 3 precious children vied for her attention during our half-hour phone call! :-) She heard my heart. She acknowledged my pain. She wasn't overwhelmed by what I shared. She didn't try to make me feel better by giving me pat answers. Her response seemed so very simple and yet had an almost tangible affect on me. Empathy is synonymous for understanding, sympathy and compassion. I most definitely received all three of these from my beautiful friend.

The feeling of being accepted after you bare your soul to another human being, both the beautiful and the ugly, is a gift to savor and cherish. As I remember our conversation, the words spoken are already fading, but the feeling of being heard, accepted and unconditionally loved continue to both bless and awe me.

Katie, thank you for your grace and for your love. Thank you for allowing God to use you in such a powerful way. I am blessed to call you friend and love you with all of my heart. It is through your gifts of friendship and empathy that allow me to say that today I am LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

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