“... for he who has pity on them will lead them, and by springs of water will guide them.”
~Isaiah 49:10c, d (NRSV).
There’s so much depression and forlornness — so much validated reason for sadness — in this life; it is so patently visible. There really is little wonder why. When we look about us just about everyone we know lacks the outlet of instant and availed empathy that I’m sure God had originally in mind.
The Value of ‘Sounding Boards’
Just how wonderfully precious is this concept: the sounding board?
The fact of this aforesaid empathy-gap illustrates another important point. Not only is there a lack of sounding boards to go around, there is the lack of will for most of us to engage in becoming a sounding board; probably because there’s little empathy coming to us, so why would we empathise with others? We run blind from the simple solution.
Then again, there are plenty of examples around our lives of people who — despite horrific circumstances, and dire a lack of forthcoming empathy from others — have managed to straddle a lifestyle that cannot help but empathise.
So, we have two problems. The first is, rarely do we have a tangible friend in all life circumstances who’s prepared and ready to listen without judgment, to help us on our way. The second, which directly helps the first, is we don’t identify the power in empathising with others as a way of sorting our own depressive and pitiable concerns — putting them into God’s context and perspective; the bigger, truer picture.
Becoming a sounding board helps solve problems personally and for others.
Empathy – the Trait of a Friend
If it wasn’t for the fact that we cannot help ourselves a lot of the time, we would actually make our own best friends — yes, on our own we’d be perfectly empathetic for ourselves.
Think about it. Nobody knows us like we know ourselves; apart from God, that is. So who better to empathise with us than ourselves? But again, we come back to the key problem; most often we cannot fix ourselves; heaven knows, we’ve tried many, many times.
The trait of the perfect friend is empathy.
They know the need, and they set about addressing the need. It’s a no-fuss approach and it is entirely other-person centred. There’s no self-thought in sight.
The servant in Isaiah — captured in the snippet above at top — is the champion of God. He or she is the perfect friend. Their mission is to help the people for which they’re called to serve. It is their life purpose. They draw surreal energy from giving their lives away.
This friend has the empathy of practical resource. It’s not the words the friend says; rather it’s the tangible safety that they provide. They’ll guide us around springs of water so we won’t fall in. When we’re fragile they take appropriate pity on us and lead us through the tremulous time.
They truly are Godsends.
And it’s to this that we’re all called. The more we’re able to empathise with others, the less the size of our personal problems. But this is not denying that we, too, have our problems. Blessed are we to be honest in our dealing with them, for that’s where healing is at.
Still, where we make copious room for others, we derive, as a by-product, more room for ourselves.
© 2011 S. J. Wickham.