Empathy // Apathy

photo by Dylan Luder

photo by Dylan Luder

I accidentally prayed a prayer I didn’t mean to pray.

I’m not really sure how this happened; it was a spur of the moment thing.

And I didn’t expect for God to hear it, let alone do some magic.

I don’t know what came over me one morning. I woke up, looked out the window and whispered,

God, I’m not sure what’s going on in the world. But help me see it through your eyes, help me feel what you feel.

I didn’t think much after that. I got dressed, grabbed my backpack, and headed to class.

I have never really believed in the “power of prayer.” It just seems a little hoax-y to me. But as I’ve been re-starting my relationship with God, I have been learning how beautiful and vulnerable it is to pray. And that sometimes when we offer up some words, things happen.

The days that followed this prayer were 3 of the most emotional, distraught, tangled days I have had in a long time. Each class, conversation, place I went, I started to see how broken everything has become.

How people are being abandoned in a time of need, how college and learning has become a competition, how political parties are fighting rather than standing together…the list goes on.

While I have been aware of the things going on in the world, I have never stopped to feel.

I have never taken a second to empathize with what people are going through.

I have never taken a minute to put myself in the shoes of the refugees; to imagine what it would be like to be stereotyped as a terrorist just because of my skin color.

This little prayer was taking me outside myself, my world, my worries. It had me thinking about others. Thank You, God, for wrecking my heart and helping me see the truth.

The truth that somewhere along the way of life, I have come to the conclusion that my story matters more than other peoples’ stories. That my thoughts are superior to others, that my life is more important than others.

I don’t know where it comes from; but looking within, it is ugly, intensely human, immensely broken.

How have I become so apathetic?

I can tell so much about the state of my heart by how I respond to things. I have seen the stone-coldness of my heart. The utter selfishness. When I hear about terrible things going on in the world or in the lives of friends, I offer up the, “oh, wow. That’s terrible,” then move on to my day.

I have avoided articles about these terrors because I cannot see how broken the world is. In trying to hold onto hope by avoiding the realities of the world, I have managed to build a wall around myself.

When hearing about shootings, I feel sadness but mostly I just feel grateful that I am still alive. Since when have I become so enraptured by my own thoughts that I don’t have a minute to actually imagine what it would be like to lose someone?

We need empathy – we need to put ourselves where other people are and treat them with importance, with genuine care. I don’t think it would involve anything radical or extreme – it would simply mean, as Mother Theresa said, doing “small things with great love.”

It would mean knowing that we have Jesus within us and with that, wherever we are, we can mend the world.

I want to be empathetic of other people because when others have been empathized with me, it has changed my life for the better. It showed me that I am enough, that I am understood.

Jesus had empathy figured out (as well as everything else). He knew how to love. He knew how to empathize with the rejects, with the broken, with everyone. The more we engage with his story and the more we offer up prayers to be more like him, the more we will know Him and feel His love.

As I continue to pray, “God give me your eyes,” I add a second part:

God rid me of myself – and grind up my apathy into a peach smoothie, dump it down the kitchen sink, and replace it with empathy.

Toil in the garden of my soul and prune and weed and plant something new.

Grow something beautiful, teach me to love like you.

-Madi Wiese // @madiwiese


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