3. EMPATHETIC – We seek first to understand and then to be understood. That requires that we are good and effective listeners, as the Bible commands: “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires” (James 1:19-20).
Sympathy is the act of having compassion for someone when we are confronted with the reality of their situation. Empathy is identifying with how they feel before they tell us! This is represented in the story of the woman who touched Jesus and was healed:
At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ” But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it (Mark 5:30-32).
Jesus sensed someone's need even though there were many others around Him. We want to have that kind of sensitivity to the people God has assigned to our care.
We also take the time to ask good questions that draw people out and then give accurate summaries of what we heard so they know they have been heard when they have an encounter or meeting with us. We are always, however, seeking to direct them to the Lord and His purpose for their lives and/or current situation.
In other words, I want to feel what people are feeling before they tell me so I can initiate ministry even if they are hesitant to ask for it. Let it be, Lord Jesus.