What makes facing and knowing our own hearts so vital? The heart is the record-keeper of our life’s emotional and spiritual experiences. It is our “life-lived memory.” Out of it we remain compassionate and generous, truthful and confessional, humble and celebratory. By facing and knowing our hearts we can even make very painful and difficult decisions, like knowing when to let go with love and grieve, or facing the great need to make reconciliation through forgiving or being forgiven for harms done.
By facing and knowing our own emotional and spiritual makeup, we can deeply identify ourselves as human — not gods and not beasts, not trying to claim powers we do not have and not having to devolve into conniving cannibals. Through the wounds we do NOT face and receive healing from, we tend to roller coaster between the defensive extremes of gods and beasts.
A great help in being fully human is to have the blessing of empathy. By knowing ourselves as human, great dreamers who have very real emotional and spiritual needs of each other and God, we face ourselves and we face others as being like us. If I lose a loved one, or even a valued place, the human response is grief. If I can grieve (have the tears of my sadness and even the anger of the loss), I can probably care about another who experiences life’s losses.
Simply put, I can relate. I can be in relationship with the other, share in the experience, even meet another in their point of need, as I myself was met. If I hurt and can confess it, I can relate to another who hurts. If I know loneliness and feel it, I will be able to see the other who may suffer likewise and offer fellowship. If I know joy, I can frolic in the excitement of another’s joy.
Empathy, of course, is a mixed blessing. It means that I can relate to you because I have a “feeling record” of my own life. It requires that we remember our lives, emotionally and spiritually. We have an emotional and spiritual record of having lived our lives as humans in need of relationship. We have a story of relating to loss and joy, discouragement and the perseverance of hope. By knowing how human I am, I can recognize myself in your face. Empathy is the blessing that allows us to be in fellowship.