Practicing Empathy Before Feedback

Empathy is certainly something I know God wants to teach me in this season – empathy with S, empathy with my kids, empathy with my colleagues – seeing things their way before (I mean rather than, ahem…) I impose my opinion.

This is emphasized even further if you know that your significant other’s love language is ‘words of affirmation’ – your (or in my case), my desire to impose my opinion doesn’t just cut across what they were feeling, but actually significantly harms their value of themself, and serves to damage rather than build up in love.

I wrote about empathy just a minute ago, regarding trying to see things the way they see things – even when doing something you think is an act of service – but this covers a whole different area, when in conversation, when in daily life.

So, this may become a mantra for me too…

“Empathize, empathize, empathize!”

This little video was really helpful to me – as I know this is an area I constantly stuff up in!

Source: Practicing Empathy Before Feedback

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When is an act of service not an act of service?

Have you ever spent a whole bunch of time doing something that you thought was helping out, and then all you got at the end of it was a bunch of complaints?

I’ve been there – and I’ve been left fuming…

“I did this for you and that for you… I spent X amount of time… I, I, I, I…. Can’t you just acknowledge what I did…”

Now is there something you noticed about my response – I certainly did – the word ‘I’…

I’ve been helping clean up this morning, and like all slightly self-centered human beings, I’ve been thinking all about what a great job, you guessed it, I have been doing.

I’ve been thinking about how many brownie points I’m going to win – the mileage I’m going to get out of it…

So, all of a sudden, the question that started toying around in my mind is – ‘who am I serving here, S, or me?’

And then it dawned on me – it’s not really an act of service – if I’m serving myself!

It’s not really an act of service, if I’m so caught up in what a great job I’m doing bringing her breakfast in bed, and how pleased she’ll be with me – but all the time forgetting that when she actually gets out of bed, she’ll feel obliged to clean up the bombsite I left downstairs in the kitchen!

Is it really an act of service if it creates more work than there was to begin with?

“It’s the thought that counts…” I’ve heard myself say a ton of time, but really – if I’m going to do something, I’ve got to start thinking about who I am serving!

Philippians 2 says:

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

True empathy

And I guess now I understand what empathy means – not looking at things my way, but looking at things her way – what will actually bless her? Am I trying to see the things that she sees, or just trying to check a box?

Can I do something that she’ll really appreciate – and would I do it even if she doesn’t notice?

What am I trying to communicate – how great a husband I am? what a wonderful sacrifice I made? Or how much I actually value and love her?

And with that in mind… I better get back to folding clothes.

 

 

Going the extra mile

So today I have a morning at home, and I’ve been tasked with helping out with a few cleaning tasks…

Great opportunity to rest on my laurels and let her know how helpful I was, right?

Until I remember that this is stuff she does week in, week out, normally without praise and often without gratitude…

So today’s step is ‘going the extra mile’ – instead of doing a half-a****d job – I’m going to try and tackle a couple of extra bits


 Namely, the patch of wall and paint tins that have been sitting In our bedroom the last month.
Just trying to remember… The little things go a long way!

Making all things new

What is the word for this season? This is something some friends of ours asked recently – I don’t really have much of a word for this season, but the one that has been going around S’s mind is this:

“Behold, I am making all things new” (Rev 21:5)

Since she shared it to me, I’ve been carrying it on my mind all day, but didn’t think much of it until this evening – when I sat down to read the classic passage on marriage from Ephesians 5. “Wives submit to your husbands, husbands love your wives…” You know the one…

Now this is all great stuff, but I was interested to know more. I started by asking myself where this passage fits in the context of the book. It’s nice to read that I should love my wife – but why did Paul write it? Where does the passage fit in the wider context of the book?

Funny you should ask. We may find something that connects us back up to the word that we started with.

Eph 5:1 starts with a ‘Therefore’, and as a good evangelical, I was taught that you if you see a ‘therefore’, you should be asking yourself what it’s there for… (Cue groan)

The context for our passage on marriage really starts in Eph 4:17:

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ! — assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Ephesians 4:17-23

All of the passages that follow are based on two simple commands:

Put off your old self & put on the new self

Really? That’s it?

Well, I guess it may take a little more work than that, but it’s a good start…

The important thing for me today is that all of Paul’s instructions that follow fit into the context of being made new – loving each other, loving my wife is part of my ‘renewed’ life in Christ – part of what God is doing in restoring us to Him.

This new year feels like a fresh start to me – God is making all things new, and something which S tells me is that this includes old things – things that are tired, that might have been abandoned.

My lazy approach to marriage might be one of them, and probably my need for control. It’s a good time to start laying these things down at the feet of the one who can do the best fix up (or simply replacement job) I can imagine…

If he can promise a whole nation a heart of flesh in replacement for a heart of stone (Ezekiel 36:26), he can sure get me ticking over again in putting effort into this marriage!

Day One – Making a battle plan

So today I’m sick. Useful start! With the family out of the house, I can start making a battle plan.

For anyone into the 5 love languages scene, my wife is a GIFTS person. Gifts Gifts Gifts Gifts Gifts, through and through.

Me? There is almost not a gift-giving-caring-receiving bone in the entirety of my body.

Tension point for marriage? You bet.

One year, I came up with an amazing plan to give my wife one gift a month for her Christmas present – pretty good, right?

Wrong. I lasted until about May – and have been repenting ever since.

So, what is my strategy?

I know my wife is struggling in 2 areas with me: not being loved/romanced/valued (ie. I’ve not done the whole gift-y thang) and not being affirmed/valued in the home – this means that I’ve been undermining the things she says to the kids, treating her as if she’s my daughter and not an equal etc.

My problem is – these things can’t be changed overnight – they need consistency.

So, as forced as it may sound – here’s my first set of solutions (and I’d love to hear any other ideas at this point).

  1. Daily reminder – bless wife.
    1. I can’t imagine how many marriages smartphones have ruined – mine is going to save mine!
  2. Weekly plan
    1. Yup – each day of the week is going to be something else – whether it’s a prayer day, an encouragement day, a gift day -these things don’t come naturally to me, so I’m going to have to start by force
  3. Pray. Pray. Pray.
    1. Fully believe it – every great move of God started with a move of prayer. Someone wise once told me that – if God is going to change my marriage, I better get praying!

So. Off I go and do all of that. I’ll let you know how it goes!