Tagged: Empathy

Facebook’s effect on Relationships

Earlier this week, I heard from a missionary friend overseas who privately commented regarding my blogposts from Monday and Tuesday. With his permission, I will relate some of our conversation. He said that he has seen that particularly the generation of younger 20’s and early 30’s seem to be struggling with an inability to build true relationships with others. He and his team felt that young people are substituting social networking for real relationships and that because of this they lacked the real ability and skills to connect with each other on a personal basis. The effect of this substitution is that so many more young people are feeling lonely and isolated. He also said that the irony seems to be that this generation craves community but they turn to social media as their source of community which is no real community at all and they are left wanting.

This is not to completely debunk the social media phenomenon which has great potential to connect people in ways that we were never connected before. (i.e. – my friend reads my blog from a link on a social media website and sends me a message about it via the same social media.) But my friend and I agree that social media is not intended to replace normal relationship building and emotional bonding. It is not the primary way to connect us to others, it is only an add-on or a layer of connection.

I love technology and I love social media. They are not the problem. The problem is that our hearts turn these media into a counterfeit for koinonia so when we look to facebook to be our relationships, we miss the real thing. Could it be that once again our own hearts are our downfall and that we are naturally moving to lesser desires not greater ones? Could it be that we are becoming satisfied with the “relational connections” and “friendships” that social media provides and we are losing our appetites for the real thing? Likely this is one more example of what CS Lewis said in His Weight of Glory address,

It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

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Trusting God when Bad News comes

Have you ever had a friend or spouse approach you with the words, “I have some good news and some bad news, which would you like to hear first?” This is common phraseology in our culture which is sometimes simply employed to communicate an outlook that is mixed with positive and negative elements, but in my experience is most often used to cushion impact of Bad News. Why is there always SOME bad news? Well, our reaction to receiving Bad News says a lot about where our trust rests. Psalm 112:6-8 says: “For the righteous will never be moved…He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD.” (ESV)

In Mark 5, while Jesus was still speaking to the woman with the chronic bleeding problem, the desperate dad/ruling church elder named Jairus, who has been waiting on Jesus to come to his home to heal his dying daughter, received some Bad News from the home: “Your daughter is dead.”  This Message produces an even greater level of despair in the Dad. It saps his courage, his faith sinks like a punctured tire and a pit grows in his stomach the size of a basketball. This is perhaps the worst news a parent can ever receive, he has lost his pride and joy! His little girl, whom he loves is gone. Seemingly death places the concern outside of Jesus’ ability to help. But with instant access to the dad’s thoughts, feelings and blood pressure readings, Jesus hears the desperation, gives the deepest empathy and says to him,  “Don’t fear,  just believe.”

Can you imagine Jesus, with His steely eyes looking right into yours then with absolute knowledge of you and your life circumstances, can you hear Him speaking those strong yet tender words to you “Don’t fear, Just Believe”?

“Let nothing trouble you, Let nothing frighten you, Everything passes, God never changes, Patience Obtains all, Whoever has God Wants for nothing, God alone is enough” –Teresa of Avila

Tomorrow: “Fear Constricts the Flow of Grace while Faith Opens its Hydrant”

Transformation and the rewiring of your brain

Neuroscientists have long known that people’s changes in attitudes, lifestyles, and habits coincide with the rewiring of their brains. But they haven’t always known the catalyst for the rewiring and change. Recent research has revealed that an important part of how people change is through the process of telling their stories to an empathetic listener.

When a person tells his story and is truly heard and understood, both he and the listener undergo actual changes in their brain circuitry. The one telling his story feels a greater sense of emotional and relational connection with a decreased sense of anxiety about the future and a relief of guilt from the past.

Even the listener’s brain is changed and the result is a greater awareness of and compassion for the suffering of others. As human listeners we can connect with the idea that we have a sense of empathy when we hear someone tell us their story. Empathy is the intellectual and emotional identification or the vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts or attitudes of another.

If as humans, we can experience empathy for another and have greater compassion toward them as a result, imagine how inviting the empathy, care and compassion that the God-man, Jesus Christ has for you when you tell Him what’s on your heart. Being God and having suffered as a man, Jesus has the highest capacity for compassion for your suffering, stress and temptation. In Jesus rests a visceral mirror of your emotions, frustrations, and anxieties. He feels what you feel when you feel it. He Gets Us! So why not approach Him with what is on your heart today? This is crucial if we want transformation in our lives.