Monday, May 27, 2024

Should I pray for something?

 Under the category of "Things to Ponder" . . . 

I believe in the power of prayer. It is a great tool for communicating with the divine. It also helps me focus on what is important and gives me the motivation to move. I am forever humbled by the power of the great creator of the universe and all that is within. Prayer has power.

With that in mind, I firmly believe prayer is not a tool to acquire things. "God, give me a million dollars." and "God, make me healthy (or smart)." This is not the role of prayer. Looking at the time Jesus spent in meditation and prayer following his baptism shows that even Jesus understood prayer was not to make God do our bidding. The correct order is the other way around. Prayer and meditation is our way to understand what God wants us to do for God. When we understand that relationship, we are more able to live according to the will and message of God.

So, what should I do when someone in need asks only that I pray for them in their time of need? There is nothing else I can do for them. I do not live nearby. I do not have the skills they need to take care of them. I do not have anything for them except my thoughts.

What they need is comfort. What I need for myself is a resolution to the unknown outcome for that someone. They don't have time to waste on me and I don't want to distract them from the chores and duties they need to complete before they undergo a hardship with an unknown outcome. They will feel comforted if I pray for them. It is something I can do.

I will not lie to them and say "Yes, I will pray for you.", but then do not do so because I don't believe that is the purpose of prayer. That would be hypocrisy and worse than asking God to do my bidding. So, in the end, I will pray to the great architect of the universe and say:

Dear God. Thank you for this beautiful creation and for giving me the awareness to appreciate all that I can sense. It is with what you have done for me that I can appreciate the beauty and glory of you and your creation. While it is your design that the future will unfold in its due time, I cannot help but feel the stress of the unknown. So it is with my friend. Their future is unknown and they fear the potential consequences as they have already experienced. Help me understand what you have given me to help comfort them in their time of need. My friend is struggling with their unknown future and needs compassion that they may once again be able to focus on glorifying you.

I feel the fear and concern of my friend. Will this upcoming event turn out the same as before? Will they need to suffer again? Such thoughts pull us from our desired focus of doing God's will and living as a humble servant. For how can we look to helping others when our own selves need the help? For this, I am reminded of what Jesus taught about the lilies of the field. 

I am also reminded of the value of worry. We worry when we foresee something that could go wrong with something we care about and we are powerless to prevent or protect it. What worry tells us is that we care about that something. Be cheered by knowing that we have something we care about and what that something is. Then, like the lilies of the field, trust God to already have a plan. Be ready to live God's plan.

Thy will be done.

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Sympathy, Empathy, and Compassion

 I've thought of sympathy and empathy before. Lately, I've enhanced my perspective and added compassion to the mix.

I recall, years ago, looking up 'sympathy' and 'empathy' in the dictionary and seeing them defined opposite of how I used those two words. On researching it further, I discovered different dictionaries had different views of the two words. Go look back at my thoughts from back then and you can catch up... or simply go with the following definitions:

Sympathy is the intellectual understanding of another person's plight or situation. I may have never experienced what you are experiencing or anything similar, but from what you have said or shown, I can sympathize with you. I can understand what you are going through.

Empathy is the emotional understanding of another person's plight or situation and is based on an experiential memory. I empathize with people who are going through something I have or am currently experiencing myself.

In many ways, they are interchangeable. We take the time to relate to the other person's situation. Yes, they differ based on how we are connected - by memory or intellectual description. Yet, in the end, we are connecting with the person.

Now, let's go off on a tangent. Compassion. Compassion is about having either sympathy or empathy for another person and acting on that feeling to help the person we are connecting with. Compassion is an active behavior motivated by either sympathy or empathy.

There is a huge divide between compassion and the first two emotions (sympathy and empathy). Both sympathy and empathy are inwardly focused. We may tell someone we are sympathetic, and in doing so, we are asking them to look at us and our state. These emotions are more of a "Look at me. I am the same as you." type of response. Yes, there might be a "you are not alone" element, but in the end, you're not alone because I am there with you.

Sympathy and empathy are self-focused in nature. Compassion is focused on the other person. With compassion, we use our understanding (via sympathy or empathy) to motivate ourselves to act for the good of the other person. Our role is diminished in favor of the other person's outcome and relief. With compassion, sympathy/empathy is a motivator and driver. It is not the focus.

In the end, let's be compassionate.