How many times a day do I hear these words? That may be a rhetorical question on my part, dear readers, but the answer is an unknown; too many times to count, that’s for sure. Contained in this query, though voiced in teenage slang, is the universal question we all are asking of others everyday of our lives. Do you get me? Are you hearing me? Do you understand me? Do you get where I’m coming from? Do you see the world the way I do? Can you see my point of view? Can you put yourself in my place? Do you care about my situation? Do you care about me?
So much is contained in those three words of inquiry, “you feel me?” In my day the popular phrase was “walk a mile in my shoes”. The S.A.T. word is “empathy”. The result is a view of the world (if only temporarily) through another person’s eyes. But empathy takes time and intentionality, plus desire and practice. We have to genuinely want to know another person’s perspective and we have to actively practice empathy before it can become a habit.
Sometimes we just don’t care enough to make the effort to learn another person’s past or to become acquainted with the road they’re walking; even for the briefest of moments. Yet sometimes a moment is all that it takes. A moment is all that is needed for the miracle of understanding to take place. Understanding makes empathy possible. We catch a glimpse of something that opens our eyes to possibilities we had not seen before and so not taken into consideration. We make a connection. “A whole new world,” so to speak, opens before our eyes. Our road is not the only road. Who knew?
Many times a day I am invited (maybe challenged is more accurate) to consider another’s course, to walk their road, however briefly. Really, not even to walk their road, but just to acknowledge that their road exists; to acknowledge that their road has validity and value all its own, just as my road does.
Nothing more “eye opening” than seeing the world through new eyes, through someone else’s eyes, even if ever so briefly. Point of view or perspective is everything in determining how we see and treat those around us. We all want to feel that we are understood by others. Hence the ever popular, non-rhetorical “you feel me?” I hear so many times a day from my students.
Given the current public discourse on any particular topic, discourse on social media of all kinds, the exchanges I witness in workplaces, public places and the classrooms I am in, I would say we’re far from extending the empathy and understanding we all so crave for ourselves to others. We refuse to give to others what we most desire from them. And we all end up feeling misunderstood and overlooked.
Jesus wrote the book when it comes to empathy, literally. He invented the concept. Jesus literally came to earth to walk a few miles in our human shoes (earthly bodies) and He did just that. If anybody gets it, Jesus does. Hebrews 4:15 tells us that Jesus is able to sympathize with our weaknesses because He has been tempted in every way, just as we are.
“He (Jesus) was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. . . . Surely He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows,” (Isaiah 53:3-4)
“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:5-8)
“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.” (John 1:14) That’s complete and total empathy in action! Our Creator came to live among us by taking on our form, an earthly body that experiences hunger and thirst and weariness and physical pain and suffering. Jesus experienced our life from our point of view because He became one of us for awhile. He didn’t just acknowledge our road, He walked it with us. And He’s walking it with us still today.
“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. Before a word is on my tongue You know it completely, O Lord.” (Psalm 139:1-4)
So the answer to my students’ often asked question of “you feel me?” is, me–not so much BUT I know who does “feel you, see you, get you, understand you and care for you.” Jesus’s answer to you will always be, “yes, I feel you.” And that is truly extraordinary!
sincerely, Grace Day