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Putting Yourself in Someone Else's Shoes

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Recently I put up a two page document on Role Playing as a Bible Teaching Method in the MinTools.com store.  Having students role play a situation helps them develop problem solving skills but also empathy.  They must “put themselves in someone else’s shoes.”

Exercising empathy would help with much church conflict. 

When we look at a situation from only our own perspective or experience base, we risk assigning wrong motives or misinterpreting the feelings, actions, or reactions of others.

When we seek to put ourselves in their shoes, we gain an understanding that often helps us be more patient and supportive of others.

Scriptural Basis for Empathy:

The word “empathy” is not used in the Bible but verses do point to our need for it as we relate to one another.

God Himself empathizes with the people He created.

As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. (Ps. 103:13-14)

O LORD, you have searched me and you know me.  You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. (Ps. 139:1-3)

Jesus modeled empathy when he lived on this earth among people and continues to empathize.  Many verses point to His compassion which is an essential part of empathy, leading Him to do something about what He perceived.

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them … (Matt. 9:36)

When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.  (Matt. 14:14)

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. … Jesus wept.  (Jn. 11:33, 35)

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.   (2 Cor. 8:9)

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin. (Heb. 4:15)

Empathy is a part of walking in love as God loves.

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us … (Eph. 5:1-2)

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.  (Matt. 7:12)

Love your neighbor as yourself. (Matt. 22:39)

Body Life demands we empathize with one another.

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. (Rom. 12:15)

… so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.  If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. (1 Cor. 12:25-26)

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Gal. 6:2)

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Eph. 4:32)

being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.  (Phil. 2:2-4)

Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.  (1 Pet. 3:8)

Effectively reaching out to others requires us to put ourselves in their shoes.

Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. (Heb. 13:3)

I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. (1 Cor. 9:22) … We must conclude that Paul did not literally become all things in every situation but that he identified with them which requires empathy.

An upcoming post will look at how to empathize.

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