Sympathy stands at a distance; empathy draws close. Real friends show up when you're hurting, and they hurt with you.
“Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down” (Romans 12:15 MSG).
The interesting thing about pain and joy is that whenever you share a joy, it gets doubled. But it’s the opposite with pain. When you share a pain, it’s halved. When your friends are going through a crisis, they need you to help carry the load and lessen the pain.
When I’m talking about sharing the pain with your friends, I’m not talking about sympathy. Sympathy says, “I’m sorry you hurt.” People don’t need your sympathy. They need your empathy. Empathy says, “I hurt with you.” Sympathy stands at a distance. Empathy draws close.
The ultimate form of love is compassion. Compassion says, “I’ll do anything I can to stop your hurt.” When you read the Bible, you’ll find that Jesus was repeatedly moved with compassion. He was willing to do whatever he could to stop others’ hurt, including going to the cross. He was willing to die to stop your hurt. That’s compassion.
The Bible says in Romans 12:15, “Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down” (MSG). That means cry with them. Weep with those who weep.
What do friends do? They show up. They share the pain, and they shut up. They don’t give pious platitudes. They don’t give advice. They don’t try to talk a friend out of his pain. They don’t say, “It’s going to be OK.” They just say, “We’re going to sit here with you. We’re going to be here for you. We’re going to hurt with you.”
Talk It Over
What are some ways you can show compassion to a friend who is hurting?
Describe a situation where it’s best not to say anything but instead just be present.
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This devotional © 2016 by Rick Warren. All rights reserved. Used by permission.