Wednesday, April 03, 2013
Empathy is an interesting concept. In many ways it is so easy to share what empathy is. We can use phrases like "standing in someone else's shoes" or we can talk about perspectives. Unfortunately, understanding empathy is a lot easier than being empathetic. Last night, I was watching a TED talk and the speaker, a man named Bryan Stevenson, was speaking about injustice. He said something that really struck me: "it's that mind-heart connection that I believe compels us to not just be attentive to all the bright and dazzling things but also the dark and difficult things." It reminded me of a story a friend of mine from B.C. told me. He was a Vice-Principal at a Christian School and was taking some students to Vancouver for a field trip. On the way over a song came on the radio that wasn't appropriate. The students quickly asked him to change the station, which he did. A couple of kilometres down the road they turned on to Hastings Street and drove past "Pigeon Park." A lot of homeless people live in "Pigeon Park." The students were quick to laugh and point at the unusual behaviour that characterizes this park. My friend was disappointed with his students actions and let them know that he did not appreciate the double standard that they just displayed. It is great to realize that a song is inappropriate; it is two-faced to then go and laugh at homeless people. These students had a disconnect between their heads and their hearts. Intellectually, they knew what was right and wrong, but they lacked the empathy required to see the difficult things and respond with God's grace. My friend was right to correct that and point out how Christianity without empathy fails. In John 11 we read that "Christ wept" in response to Lazarus' death. It is obvious that Christ empathizes with us. As a Christian school we need to continue to teach our students to be Christ-like in this way. We need to make sure that we our striving to educate our students to have empathy, to have a strong connection between their heads and their hearts.