Recently, I was talking to a friend about some advice she had received. She was discussing how she had been struggling in certain areas and the advice she got was grounded in the Word and had loads of truth in it, and yet, she was struggling to accept it. After talking some, we realized that this well-meaning Christian advice-giver had made one fundamental mistake: he confused simplicity with ease.
While the two words are synonyms, they are by no means the same word.
Doing the right thing is simple but it’s not always easy.
Choosing not to eat that donut in the breakroom is simple but it’s not always easy.
Always telling the truth is simple but it’s not always easy.
The message of Jesus is simple but it’s not always easy.
We can daily make the decision to follow God. The choice is so simple: you either follow him or you don’t. But that doesn’t make the choice easy by any means. Sure, some decisions are made with almost no pushback. I’m not going to cause physical harm to someone around me, but I might struggle with my anger toward that person. I might not struggle with infidelity (I’m not married), but I might struggle to be faithful to the Lord. I won’t go and join the mosque down the street, but I certainly do struggle to love the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength.
This conversation with my friend got me to thinking about how vital empathy is when we’re relating to other people. We can and should speak truth but we shouldn’t be blind to the struggles around us. Life is hard, following the Lord is hard, and doing the right thing is hard. And empathy can give another person the courage to do that hard thing instead of being overwhelmed by the difficulty in front of them.
I wonder how many people feel defeated when Christians talk about their faith simply because they doubt that they will be able to live “the life”. And I wonder how many of their perspectives might change if we changed how we discussed our walk or gave advice.
Truth without love can be harsh and critical.
Honesty with empathy is welcoming and kind.
I’m not always great at this whole empathy thing. I’m much better at rigidity and rules and being right. But I’m learning that living in community and doing life with people requires things like empathy and love and compassion. By honestly sharing our stories and struggles and our faith walk, we can welcome others along for the ride.
I used to mistake simplicity and ease for each other, but I’m learning that the two don’t always nicely overlap. While difficulty doesn’t negate our need to do (or at least strive to do) the right thing, it should help us be empathetic to those who struggle. The hard truth that I’ve been learning is that life is not perfect and I am not perfect so I will never perfectly follow the Lord. And yet he still accepts me anyway. So let’s choose to share our struggles knowing that doesn’t diminish or change our standing with God our identity in him. Who knows, maybe that’ll make all the difference in our relationships with others.
Do you think simplicity and ease are the same?
Do you struggle with empathy?