If you missed my previous post introducing The Importance of a Family series, then you can go read it by clicking the following title:
Sympathy is an action of respect that is appreciated within families and friends. Showing sympathy to family and friends during a troubling time is one of the best, and most effective ways to show them that we care. Taking time out of our day to help a neighbor move, or bake a pie for a family who lost a loved one, speaks volumes to the ones on the receiving end, and most of the time we ourselves feel blessed in return. But, not only is sympathy an appreciated action, but it is also a needed mindset.
To many people, giving sympathy is a natural response to troubling circumstances; however there are those few of us who have to make ourselves recognize the need for a little sympathy. Its not because we don’t love the particular person in mind, nor do we not care about them, we just lack the mindset of sympathy. It’s just not wired as strongly in our brains as in others. And yes, I am one of these, I admit to it openly; “sympathetic” is not one of my character traits. But that’s okay, because what doesn’t come natural to someone, just needs a little polishing to make it shine.
Picking back up in 1 Peter 3:8, I’d like to illustrate to you why sympathy is important to families. While I’d also like to reveal the consequences of a lack of sympathy within the home as well as the benefits of sympathy outside the home.
Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.
1 Peter 3:8 (ESV)
As I stated earlier, sympathy is a needed mindset. Breaking that down, we understand that it’s important and a choice. A lot of times sympathy comes as a feeling or an urge to help, but it’s actually a mental choice that Christians must train themselves to make at the right times. But before we go any further, I’d like to clear up differences between “sympathy” and “pity”.
Pity is feeling bad for someone; compassion; a compelling feeling to give to the needy; and to be sorry for. Sympathy is an agreement in feelings; a harmony of opinions; and a power of sharing like feelings. Do you see the difference? Pity is comforting those who are lower in state than you are, while sympathy is comforting those who are in the same state as you. They both comfort, but they comfort different people.
Sympathy works in tangent with our testimonies. If you’ve lost a parent then you’ll be able to easily sympathize with someone else who has lost a parent. If you’ve overcome a certain sin though Jesus, then you can sympathize with someone who is trying to overcome that same sin because you understand what had to be done. Sympathy is a way of connecting and comforting, which is why it’s vital in families.
As a family, we are called to be of the same mind, and one of the best ways we can become of the same mind is by connecting through sympathy. Which leads us back to sympathy being a mindset. Not every person in every family is going to be able to relate to every feeling going on with every person of that family; we are all just too different! But notice the first definition I gave for “sympathy” in the above paragraph; it’s to be in agreement of feelings.
You can choose to sympathize with your sibling by listening to their feelings, setting your self in their shoes, and agreeing that you would probably (more than likely if you’re honest) feel the same way if the places were swapped. And really, an agreement of feelings doesn’t always mean that you agree with them completely; it can just mean that you agree that the feelings are out of place and that you are going to agree on a solution.
But here’s the shocker, that requires communication! Funny how having unity in the family required communication, and now sympathy does too? I’m seeing a little bit of a trend going 🙂
So having sympathy comforts and connects, but what does a lack of sympathy do? To have a lack of sympathy, you actually have a lack of communication which builds walls in record time. Not sympathizing with your family means that you’re not talking about things that are important in your lives. You’re not sharing your hurt feelings, you’re struggles, you’re concerns, or you’re grievances. And when you don’t share these things amongst your own home, how will your family, who are the only people who will more than likely be around for the rest of your life; how will they be able to lift you up in prayer? How will they be able to fight at your back? How will they hold you up and comfort you when you feel like breaking?
Families live in homes; homes are typically described as comfort; comfort is given by sympathy and sympathy is given by communication. Does your family lack in sympathy? I pray it doesn’t; but if it does, know that I’m praying over everyone who reads this and your family.
Even Job’s friends in the Bible knew the importance of giving sympathy to him while he was grieving,
“Now when Job’s three friends heard of all the evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him.”
Job 2:11 (ESV)
So show sympathy to your family, but don’t stop there; show sympathy to your friends too. It’ll mean the world to them and build a lasting relationship.