You have probably heard the terms empathy and grace before. You may have even tried to put them into practice. When you develop empathy and respond to others with grace, you may find the needle on your offense-ometer declining, much like the speedometer on your car drops as you step on the brake before sailing through a red light. The yellow light was your warning, but if you see it too late or ignore it, you can face any number of consequences, from getting a ticket to getting in a car accident. But if you pay attention and heed the warning, you can avoid those kinds of results. In the case of relationships, the “yellow light” is your awareness that you are too easily offended. It’s time to take action, before the light hits red. If you don’t put the brakes on now, you will sail through that red light and may very well crash. So, be empathetic now. Extend grace now. These are qualities that contribute to our emotional well-being and increase our resistance to taking offense. So, what is empathy? Some people define this as putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. You can develop or increase empathy by asking yourself these three questions:
- What is it like to be this person? Try and think through what it would be like to be the person who offended you.
- Why might this person have treated you the way he or she did? This builds on the answers to the first question.
- How might this person want to be treated in return? I think the answer to this is obvious, but I’ll say it anyway. She would want to be treated with grace. She would want to be met with mercy.
Show grace to those who offend you, knowing you have also been shown grace in the past. The reality is that we have all said things about others that we shouldn’t have said. We have all put other people down. It’s important to remember this lest we become self- righteous—too big for our britches, as we say in the South. For example, it’s likely you’ve posted something on Facebook that has offended someone. I can practically guarantee it. Instead of being offended by someone’s words or actions, choose to extend grace.
Excerpt taken from Relational Reset: Unlearning the Habits that Hold You Back, available February 5th. Pre-order today!