HAVE YOU ever thought what it takes to reach out for support? Most people who are sick or grieving or lonely will only reach out when they truly feel overwhelmed.
When life gets too much for us – then we reach out. Generally, only then.
When the shoe is on the other foot, when we are the ones suffering, we suddenly understand the vast chasm relationally – people have no idea how bad it has to get before we open up. So, it follows that we have no idea what others are containing from within themselves before they finally open up. We have an opportunity to present others with the opportunity for safe exploration of their souls.
It has to be God’s will for us to be discerning the person before us: the person who has his or her private struggle – a litany of sorrow, a ‘treasure’ of tumult buried under an ocean of pain, or merely a world of frustration.
Is there a better type of hypersensitivity than being empathic – being totally in tune as any human being can be with another?
This is the God-inspired calling of the person with a pastoral heart. The pastorally hearted have a way of discerning the inner tide and quotient of strength of a person in their midst – it’s simply because they are interested. They can sense that all is not well inside those who are withdrawn, passively aggressive, terse, or guarded. They want others freed of an unnecessary burden.
Having that sense that all is not well in another person is a frustration of intimacy to the pastorally hearted person. They are comfortable with superficiality for its own sake, but not when superficiality has to be the norm because of a fear in this other person for vulnerability and disclosure; they want to help – without wanting to cause pain (recalling that their empathic hypersensitivity is all about the other person).
Being empathically hypersensitive is not so much a gift as it is the compassion of God inside us for another person. It is taking God literally – to love another just as we wish to be loved. It’s about elevating the need of the person in front of us so they would feel safely beside us, important to us, on the journey of life.
It is a blessing to remember how estranged to compassion many of us feel a lot of the time, and how we can be Jesus for the person who needs us.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.