There’s a lot of hurt in our world, and with all the negativity, deception, and pain vowing for our attention, it can feel like the world is literally falling around us. There’s hate, violence, and nasty words online, in the media, and in our streets…It’s true…The hurt is real, but we DO have the capacity to reduce and repair it!
Imagine if we had the superpower to see EXACTLY how every person behind each comment online sees and understands the world. Imagine if we could see the hurt they’re harboring inside and thus, projecting externally. Imagine if we could truly see how each person of the opposing political party views the world + understand their reasons why. Whoah! It could be powerful!
We might not have this all-knowing superpower, but God certainly does! And He’s given us the tools and instructions to see everything around us more like He does, starting with: “Love one another”.
And how do we love? A good place to start is by trying to see as God sees, and that requires empathy. We’ve all got it. And we all can use it!
What exactly is empathy? It’s been defined many different ways, so I’ll give you my version! Empathy is having the deep capacity to identify with another’s perspective while making them feel seen, heard, and understood.
Here’s 8 tangible ways to cultivate more empathy in your life & the relationships around you:
1) Empathy begins with you.
Be kind to yourself! We can be our own worst critic, and how we treat ourselves reflects onto how we treat others. If we want to love others well and become more empathetic of others around us, that empathy must begin with ourselves!
2) Paint a picture in your head of how their life might be.
When you see someone you don’t know, whether it’s on the street, in a store, or in a shelter, try this exercise. Paint a picture in your head of how their life might be. Where do they live? What does their home look like? Do they have a home? Where do they go to work? Who makes up their family? What brings them joy? What struggles do they have?
It’s important to be careful you don’t allow yourself to fall into forming a bias or judgement, just let yourself simply observe. You likely won’t be accurate. It’s not the facts that matter here, it’s the active practice of trying to see and understand someone else that counts! By doing so, you’re wiring your brain to begin by automatically asking yourself what it is you don’t know or understand about someone else that could change how you see or understand them!
3) Make friends with others you don't normally understand or associate with.
Imagining is a good exercise, but asking them is even better! Make friends with others you don’t normally understand or associate with. Invite guests into your home, and ask them questions that go beyond just what they do. Ask about what their daily life is like, about their biggest dreams, deepest held values, and purpose in life. You’ll learn a lot about them, but also about yourself in a few short minutes. BTW, I think this one is so fun!
“Empathy has no script. There is no right way or wrong way to do it. It’s simply listening, holding space, withholding judgment, emotionally connecting, and communicating that incredibly healing message of ‘You’re not alone.’” - Brene Brown
4) Talk to strangers!
Yes, contrary to what your mama taught you, talk to strangers! (We’re adults and we can handle it!) That’s right, engaging with new people helps us to see the world differently. By engaging in this way, we can see the way they see - and that my friends, is empathy.
5) Ask yourself questions.
When someone in your life is acting in a way you dislike, think about why they might be acting that way. What are the demands on their time right now? How are their relationships? What was their home life like growing up? Are they happy right now, or are they in a difficult season? In what ways might they be struggling? Again, you might not be completely accurate, but I bet you’ll be close, because you know them. And by empathizing with them, you’ll come to know and understand them even deeper!
6) Recognize your privilege.
Ouch, that one can hurt! Privilege is gaining benefit from a particular status you didn’t necessarily earn, without maybe even realizing it’s your privilege. Recognizing our privilege whether it be through social status, money, gender, race, age, or anything else helps us to see beyond our own situation and into others’. It helps us come to understand why perhaps something that seems easy for us, is difficult for others. Or, how we might not find others in situations we find ourselves in. Privilege can be tough to see until we stop to think about it, but once we do, it can create conviction within us and propel us into action!
7) Act on it!
Realizing the areas in which we have privilege gives us the awareness and opportunity to act on it. We can donate, stand up for others, and contribute to the larger conversation around the topic. Similarly, empathy can be cultivated by bringing people together around a social cause. It highlights our similarities as humanity, and minimizes our differences. WIN-WIN!
8) Amplify voices.
Creating space to hear stories from others while listening and engaging, gives us the opportunity to see and understand - to be with them, hear them, and believe them. It gives us the opportunity to see a little piece of the world differently, offering insight for the present and foresight for the future.
EMPATHY. It’s one little word we hear a lot about, but it seems just hearing about it isn’t enough…In order to love well, we need to understand well, and that requires a curiosity about the lives of others and a deep capacity to see, hear, and understand.
You now have 8 ways to get started in cultivating a deeper capacity for empathy!
Ready to cultivate more empathy in your own life right away?
Grab my free 5-day empathy guide with journal prompts to practice cultivating more empathy in your life! In as little as 5 days, you’ll begin seeing the world in a different light, and uncover new insights about the relationships around you!
Seriously, I created this guide specifically with you in mind, and it includes questions that I ask myself when I’m working to see new perspectives as well!