Draw Near: Lenten Devotional by Lynne Baab, illustrated by Dave BaabTwo Hands: Grief and Gratitude in the Christian LifeA Renewed SpiritualityNurturing Hope: Christian Pastoral Care in the Twenty-First CenturyThe Power of ListeningJoy Together: Spiritual Practices for Your CongregationSabbath Keeping FastingPrayers of the Old TestamentPrayers of the New TestamentSabbathFriendingA Garden of Living Water: Stories of Self-Discovery and Spiritual GrowthDeath in Dunedin: A NovelDead Sea: A NovelDeadly Murmurs: A NovelPersonality Type in CongregationsBeating Burnout in CongregationsReaching Out in a Networked WorldEmbracing MidlifeAdvent Devotional

Friendship, loneliness, and prayer: Praying to grow in empathy

Lynne Baab • Tuesday February 20 2024

Friendship, loneliness, and prayer: Praying to grow in empathy

First and foremost, empathy requires that we pay attention to another person. Their facial expression and body language. Their tone of voice. The way they describe situations, actions, feelings, and responses. As I’m sure you know, this is much harder than it sounds.

Obstacles to paying attention are manifold. Some obstacles come from outside, such as background noise, chaotic environments, or planes flying overhead. Most obstacles come from within, from our own thoughts and feelings. I can list so many things that flit through my mind when I’m trying to listen empathetically: the ingredients I need for dinner, the mess in the...

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Friendship, loneliness, and prayer: Praying to use empathy with love

Lynne Baab • Wednesday February 14 2024

Friendship, loneliness, and prayer: Praying to use empathy with love

Identify with. Experience. Understand. Those are the verbs in the definition of empathy that I have been highlighting in recent blog posts.

“Empathy is the cognitive process of identifying with or vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another. . . . When we empathize, we are attempting to understand and/or experience what another person understands and/or experiences.” —Verderber and Verderber, Inter-Act: Interpersonal Communication Concepts, Skills and Contexts

Today, I want to raise the possibility that the three verbs I have highlighted can be exercised without love and actually cause harm. Ideally, we hope that anyone who makes an effort to identify with,...

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Friendship, loneliness, and prayer: Praying for wisdom in using empathy

Lynne Baab • Wednesday February 7 2024

Friendship, loneliness, and prayer: Praying for wisdom in using empathy

Interest in empathy skyrocketed after the discovery of mirror neurons in the early 1990s. As I wrote two weeks ago, mirror neurons enable us to respond to and even experience the actions and emotions of others. The number of academic studies about empathy is astonishing. Empathy is studied in relation to just about any profession or life activity you can imagine.

I want to give you a sampling of the kinds of articles about empathy you’ll find online.

Here’s a quotation from a consulting firm specializing in negotiating skills: “Evidencing empathy leads to negotiation success.”

From an education center at U.C. Berkeley: “Students who...

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Friendship, loneliness, and prayer: Praying for empathy . . . and sympathy?

Lynne Baab • Thursday February 1 2024

Friendship, loneliness, and prayer: Praying for empathy . . . and sympathy?

When I first learned about the difference between empathy and sympathy, here’s what I absorbed from explanations of both words: Empathy is feeling sad (or happy, angry, or some other emotion) when you tell me about something that made you feel that emotion. Sympathy is seeing your sadness and acknowledging it, perhaps by saying something like, “That’s too bad.” With empathy, we feel some degree of the other person’s emotions. With sympathy, we can see the other person’s emotions and acknowledge them, without necessarily feeling them ourselves.

The tone of voice makes a big difference with the words, “That’s too bad.” A...

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