What do you do when your mother-in-law is overwhelmed by the reception she is hosting? Should you offer to help her clean her house, make some of the food and set-up for the big day?
What about when you sister-in-law is a bit overwhelmed by the enormity of cleaning her newly purchased home?
And then there is the visitor who walks into church with six children under the age of seven. Do you offer to hold the baby so she can have a free hand to hold her toddler?
When my oldest daughter was in kindergarten, one of her lessons was on "Honoring All Men." She has probably long since forgotten that lesson, but it has stuck with me all these years. I quote, "To honor all men we must treat them as we would like to be treated if we were they. We should treat our parents as we would like our children to treat us if we were parents. We should treat strangers as we would like for them to treat us if we were strangers. We should treat a drunk man as we would like for others to treat us if we were drunk."
Empathy is the ability to imagine oneself in another's place and understand the other's feelings, desires, ideas, and actions.
My mom is a wonderful example of a person with great empathy. She has written many songs, but my personal favorite is "Lord Let Me Be Your Reflection". "Living for others, that's what life's all about" are not just the words she sings, but a mirror of the life she lives.
People need to see "Jesus with skin on". He wants to use your hands, your feet, your words to help someone in this journey of life.
Because God loves variety, we can't always just do to that person what we would want someone to do to us. For example, I have a dear friend who is a minister's wife. We were guests at their home and because I know what it's like to have a houseful of guests, I was trying to help her in the kitchen. She kindly explained to me that she doesn't like people to be in her kitchen. I, on the other hand count people who help me in the kitchen as very dear friends!
It's not always easy to know how a drunk person would like to be treated, because I've never been drunk myself, but I do know I would not like to be avoided, made fun of or talked about.
Of course, there's always two sides to every issue. It can be easy to get our priorities mixed up when there are so many needs to be met. We should always keep our relationship with God as our first priority, next comes meeting the needs of my husband, then my children and our home. IF those needs are met, then I can feel free to help others.