Psalm 89:33   – But I will never, no never, lift my faithful love from off their lives. My kindness will prevail and I will never disown them.

Earlier today I had the privilege of speaking to a group of first responders. They were in crisis intervention training and my job was to help them see those in recovery as real people, to have empathy instead of judgement.I watched their faces as I spoke, seeing eyes that understood, but also eyes that glazed over with fatigue. I knew that they had already experienced many, many interactions with those struggling with substance abuse, and even seen many overdoses or traumatic crises. 

What do you think when you see a man on the street corner holding a sign? How about a women sitting at the intersection under a tree? What is the first thing that pops into your mind when you get a message that a family member needs help, but you think they are probably high?

Psalm 89:45 – Because of you, I’ve become old before my time and I’m publicly disgraced.

If you are honest with yourself, at some point in this journey you have thought something like that. We all have. We naturally tend to place blame and judgement on the one causing us pain. 

How does the Lord see them? That man on the corner with his backpack and his dog- God sees him and loves him.

That woman holding the sign, looking so thin and hungry- God sees her and loves her. He understands her need and her pain. 

That son of yours who lies, refuses help, and says you are to blame- God sees him and knows exactly what he needs.

Empathy is not just seeing. It is the opposite of judgement. Empathy, by definition, is understanding how another person feels, seeing things from their perspective. In a crisis situation, it is what can help us interact with compassion and effectively give help. It is seeing that person as a real person, rather than just a “drug addict,” or another  “homeless person. ”

 Psalm 89:33 is a beautiful verse, reminding us that God will never give up on us. But go back to verse 32! 

But if his children turn from me and forsake my words, refusing to walk in my truth, renouncing and violating my laws, then I will surely punish them for their sins with my stern discipline until they regret it!

Agh!! That sounds so harsh! God parents his children! We know that sometimes we make bad choices. God lets us walk out natural consequences, like jail or financial problems. But then…. God keeps loving. He still sees us all through empathy and love. He never stops. 

Empathy is seeing from God’s perspective. When you see that man at the corner,day after day, just let him know you see him! Let him know someone cares. Maybe a bottle of water, water for his dog? A kind word instead of glaring at him as you speed by. Kindness.

Can you try to understand how that person feels? They have had to swallow their pride and resort to begging. They might genuinely be hungry, or maybe they are just convinced its the only way. No matter, they are somebody’s child. They have strengths, talents and personalities. 

When I was speaking to the first responders, I bragged on my son. He is an amazing musician, taught himself to play and sings with the voice of an angel. He is compassionate, loving and enjoys being a father. He is a real person who has worth and importance. I pray that he never needs EMS again, but if he does, I want them to treat him with empathy rather than judgement. Wouldn’t you want to be treated that way? 

Empathy, not judgement – it just might make a difference!

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