Empathy Over Sympathy

Coming down with a serious illness or disability can “label” us with many a stigma, let alone suddenly give us entirely too much time on our hands if we are unable to work because of doctors’ orders.  Not only does it stink to have the illness or disability, but everyone around us, once you have told them, and if they’re not already doing so, begins treating us differently.  Like we got kidnapped by aliens taken to their planet changed for all time and  then deposited back on earth in our present state.  Only, the people around us, though they can clearly see we’re still human, think we no longer speaks their language; or they treat us like we’re always on the brink of a manic hysteria of some sort, therefore justifying their need to walk around us on pins and needles, not knowing what to say to us.

Additionally, we each have a friend(s), or family member(s) or we might even have a care-giver(s) now, who tells us we should “just buck it up, it ain’t all that bad. Quit acting like a sissy baby.”  Even worse, tell us we’re faking or that we’re a hypochondriac because they either don’t believe your doctors, or they aren’t comfortable being around anyone who is ill or who has disabilities.  So their comments and actions border on meanness if not down right cruelty.  Sadly enough, my friends – be ready for such reactions, prayerfully put on the full armor of God before the storm hits.  It isn’t be easy and but there is an easy answer, get the person or persons out of our life, permanently, or at least until they have changed – we don’t need that on top of everything else we’re dealing with.

Before I go any further with what I wanted to say in this article, I need to make sure people who are dependent young or elderly adults, and or those with disabilities, know that they have the same rights as any other human being on God’s green earth. We deserve dignity, respect, and everything else that goes with those.  If anyone, and I do mean anyone ever treats you any differently, you have the right to put a stop to it by asking for help from someone you trust who will get that help for you, a.s.a.p.

Since each person who behaves in such a horrendously negative way does so differently, sometimes it is difficult to detect by those who do love and care for us properly.   Some of these negative people have crossed that line into the realms of, and our dear God forbid it, but it does happen –  anger, derisiveness, harassment, manipulation, stealing our possessions, and emotional, sexual, or physical abuse, or all the above.

My dear friends and fellow dependent adults, we have to speak up for ourselves, we cannot just think, because we are elderly, ill (or disabled), we for some reason deserve less considerate, compassionate, and quality care than those who are healthy!  I say to you, if any or all the things I mentioned above are happening to you, then you must call a friend you trust and tell them what’s happening – ask for help, or call 911.  What they’re doing to you is dependent adult and or elderly abuse.  If you’re afraid to use the phone because you might be overheard, but you are able to use the computer fairly privately, then for your own sake – tell someone on the internet, get on Facebook and find your local police department’s Facebook Page and message them,  Press you emergency button on your wrist or around your neck, or pull on your emergency call cord, while the abuse is happening – anything, just don’t let it continue, because you are of so much more worth and value than what they are making you to believe.

Okay, now that I have gotten that off my chest, let’s get back to my subject of Empathy Over Sympathy.

We also have friends or family members who shower us with gifts, mushy gushy lovey dovey attention, and or an over abundance of sympathy whether we’ve asked for it or not.  All done because they have an out of proportion misplaced sense of guilt, as if what we’re going through is somehow their fault.

Please let them off the hook, set them down and explain what your “affliction” is, and if they insist on helping you, have the grace to allow them to do so in some small way.  Think about this though, the way they are reacting to our illness or disability is not entirely their fault.  How we handle it ourselves gives others around us permission to treat us no differently than anyone else.

Lets address sympathy, it’s not a terrible thing, it’s a God-given emotion after all, and there are times when it is necessary.  However, if we receive a lot of sympathy day in and day out, we’re in danger of walking through the pity door and locking it behind us.  I’m speaking from my own experiences here, so don’t think I have no idea of what I am talking about.  I’m also not saying that a good old-fashioned pity party isn’t good for us once in a while, it allows us to vent any plugged up emotions; but when we lock ourselves in the room where the party’s going on and we don’t or refuse to come out, then that’s a big problem.  This is where issues become mountains, which cannot be traversed until we choose to unlock the door for ourselves and come out.  Friends, may I suggest, this sympathy room/emotion is not made by God for us to wallow in for the rest of our lives?

With an illness or disability, we also have a tendency at first to sit around doing nothing but watch T.V. shows or movies, and if not that, play video games on the T.V. or a computer, or gorge ourselves on food or the “neighborhood drama” all day long.  This too is an unacceptable response.  These are time wasters, they rot our brains and bodies with trash which doesn’t belong going in there in the first place; and cause more drama in our neighborhoods by the amount of gossip we spread.  Now don’t go getting all aggravated ad upset, I’m not saying some of those things, in moderation, are not okay; however, four to sixteen hours or more spent on these activities in a day…that’s over the top!

Talking about binge eating or starving our feelings away, it doesn’t work; and when you get to the other side eating (or not) yourself into a stupor, your illness or disability are still there, and now you have a hard habit to break too.  So going and getting yourself an eating disorder along with your illness or disability is not going to help matters.  Neither will it help matters if you don’t deal with your own feelings that are coming at you like a steam roller.  Not dealing with your own feelings, also won’t help those around you deal with theirs, nor will it help them know how to work through their own issues about your suddenly becoming ill or disabled.

May I further suggest a time and a place for sympathy will present itself, and when it occurs, it should come in small measures.  Sympathy defined: the sharing of another’s emotions, especially of sorrow or anguish; pity.  These are things we absolutely don’t need in large measures, because healing cannot come from such emotions.  They never have and never will solve anything.

However, empathy is much more productive for all those involved for it helps in the healing process and gives strength to us and those around us.  Empathy defined: the power of understanding and imaginatively entering into another person’s feelings.  Empathy empowers, it does not suck out the want to overcome, but instead it gives hope and support.

God carries our burdens for us, this includes illnesses and disabilities, for He said in His Word that in our weakness He is strong; He also says He will never leave nor forsake us.  In conclusion, prayer is the fastest text message to God you will ever have.  When you need help, wisdom, encouragement, strength, faith, peace, etc.  He is always there listening to every word we utter, and even those we cannot.

In conclusion, may I suggest a better solution to burying our heads in the proverbial sands of “sitting around doing nothing but watch T.V. shows or movies, and if not that, playing video games on the T.V. or a computer, or gorge ourselves on food or the “neighborhood drama” all day long”; we find instead, the use God has for us now, for no matter how ill or how disabled we are God always has a purpose for us to bring Him glory during this time of “trouble”.  What that purpose, or plan God has for you at this point in your life is entirely between you and God; the only way to find this out is to seek Him through prayer and reading His Word, the Bible.  When we have found this purpose, pursue it with all our hearts.

Blessing to you and yours today my friends, until the next post, may God’s healing hands and Spirit of peacefulness always be upon you.