by Brandy Webb
“You never really know a man until you understand things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it” (Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1960).
We have all argued with someone. Maybe you had an argument yesterday or last week. The fact is, humans argue. Do you ever think that the person you are arguing with is just not hearing you? Do you find yourself thinking one or all of the following?
- “Hey, you don’t know what I am going through.”
- “If you would just listen and hear me out.”
- “You are so stubborn and always trying to push your ideas on me.”
Do you ever stop yourself and ask if you are doing the same thing to them? Empathy is the ability to identify and understand another person’s feelings. How empathetic are we? I know I sometimes get so caught up in my feelings that I never stop to consider the other person’s feelings. And isn’t that the problem with arguments? They are always emotionally driven. We don’t argue when we are calm and collective; we argue when we feel impassioned about something. But what would happen if we shut our mouth, breathed deeply, and paused to consider where the other person is coming from?
It takes two to argue. We get emotional about something, and we believe we are right. Yet, the truth is, opinions aren’t facts, memories aren’t flawless, and anger clouds judgment. We want to be patient and compassionate. It doesn’t mean we have to agree with the other person, but we can stop, calm ourselves down, and maybe even step away and give ourselves a chance to look at the situation from their point of view. It may not change your opinion, but it may make you more compassionate to their opinion. You may figure out their motive behind their behavior.
For example, sometimes I get really frustrated with my husband because he works a lot. When I get emotional about it, I start irrationally thinking that he likes his job better than his family. I know that this idea is not true, but I’m emotional, so rational thoughts go out the window. The point is, my husband is the one who shows me empathy. He sees where I’m coming from. I am a little insecure due to times in my past where I didn’t feel important. He understands that, so instead of getting angry when I have one of my emotional breakdowns, he lovingly listens and then points out how my thinking is not true. He is just trying to balance a demanding job, which he loves, and his family, which he loves even more, the best way he can.
I’m figuring out that one of the main things that must happen when trying to “wear the other person’s shoes” is that I have to acknowledge it isn’t all about me. We are all striving to live, to love, and to make it in this imperfect world. As Christians, we know that we are to show love for each other. We know that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matt 22:39). We are to show “compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted” and courteous (1 Pet 3:8). We are to esteem others better than ourselves, and we are to “look not only to [our] interests, but also the interests of others” (Phil 2:3-4).
Therefore, the next time you find yourself getting all emotional and into a heated argument, try to just stop and see where the person is coming from. “Put on their shoes and walk in them.” It may help you to identify with them better, and it will give you a chance to be Christ-like in showing compassion to them.