The incarnation of Christ as a human being is a matchless expression of empathy within the heart of the Trinity, which makes empathy one of the preeminent Christian attributes. To live incarnationally is to manifest empathy to those around us.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://spectrummagazine.org/views/2023/ditch-platitudes
Such an important thing to understand. The psychological toll platitudes took on me during my divorce were immense. It actually moved me to attended an non-SDA church for a while to, in part, escape all the empty words.
An excellent article! May the Lord help us to truly empathise with others, when they need it, just as we would wish for ourselves in our time of need.
Yes - this is very important. Thank you for this article. The know-it-all advice giving is annoying, counter-productive and most of the time just plain wrong. The platitudes are also annoying and in many ways just false. If God “tests” people with personal tragedy, then God is a jerk. The idea that one will never be given more hardship than one can handle is simply false - some people break under the pressure. Prayer doesn’t cure all ills. And even worse are the platitudes that if one were simply to “SDA harder”, one’s life will turn around - pray more, tithe, bible study more, tithe, be vegetarian/vegan, tithe, don’t drink coffee, tithe, volunteer at church, tithe, be stricter about sabbath observance, tithe, etc. - and somehow your physical ills, your emotional ills, your psychological ills, your relationship ills and your financial ills will all be cured. This is classic prosperity gospel; it has much biblical support (Deut 27-30; Malachai 3:10, Matt 6:25-27), but it’s observed to be not true.
The there’s the “I’m praying for you”. Often it is spoken from a point of view of true caring and the person just doesn’t know what else to say. Sometimes it’s an empty platitude and a segue into another less serious topic of conversation. But sometimes it’s spoken with an air of arrogance, as if the speaker has a special “hot line” to the big man upstairs that us less pious folk don’t have. Of course no one has ever explained to me satisfactorily why prayer would move God to do something he otherwise would not do, or why the efficacy of prayer depends on the number of petitions, the frequency of the petitions, the fervour of the petitions or the piety of the petitioners. The unspoken subtext is that God won’t intervene for me if I ask for myself, but if my more pious, more righteous, less sinful brother prays, that might get God’s attention.
Have you read Job? It appears the god of the Hebrew bible, Yahweh, does just that. He even allowed the killing off of his children, to make sure Job suffered enough. Gotta be sure!
And those that assembled the Hebrew bible, decided what was in and what was out, liked the story so much they kept it.
I am embarrassed that once upon a time I was foolish and immature enough to have believed that Job was an historical account of true events.
Some people call this “active listening”:
Like everything else in life it’s easier said than done, though, because it requires demonstrating that you’ve taken the time to hear what was being said, rather than preparing a response while the other person is talking!
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