Love|Defined – Empathy and Compassion

Love|Defined – Empathy and Compassion May 6, 2020

This week’s installment is an excerpt from my upcoming book, “Love|Forward – Moving Forward at the Speed of Love”

As far back as anyone can recall, humanity has sought to define what love is. At its most esoteric, it is the most powerful of human emotions; at its most technical, it’s a chain series of complex chemical and hormonal reactions. To the uninitiated, love is a mere emotion. To the biologist, love is the simply chemical changes in the human body that result in a conditioned response.

Before we can have any meaningful discussion on love, we need to have a working definition of love. It is a very complicated thing but I believe it can be reduced to two simple components:

Empathy and Compassion.

Empathy simply means to see or experience something through the eyes of others. This is one of the simple things that anyone can do to demonstrate love to another. For example, men can only understand the experiences of a woman by seeking to understand what it’s like to be a woman. A desire to experience things as others do is the pinnacle of empathy.

Empathy is the “why” of love. And if you want to get to the root cause of anything, you must either start with or get to “why.” Empathy forces us to understand why do people think what they think, say what they say, and do what they do.

Ask yourself, are you willing to walk a mile in another’s shoes? In the broadest slice of humanity, today, the answer is clearly, “no.” Most people see the plight of others as “not their problem.” In America, this is compounded by the concept of “rugged individualism;” that is, everyone is responsible for their own situations. In other words, “pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” Empathy forces us to see that not everyone has boots!

Empathy is the reminder of the connectedness of humanity. Quantum entanglement holds that once two or more subatomic particles become entangled, a change in the state of one will influence the other — irrespective of time or space. New Age thought calls this the “butterfly effect;” that even our most minute actions have a cascading effect throughout humanity. Empathy, then, is a spiritual explanation of quantum entanglement!

We must be aware of this level of connectedness. It’s easy to accept the removal of economic opportunity and mobility from a community; less so to accept the blight, despair, and crime that accompanies it. It’s easy to demand a lockdown of borders but not easy to see the heartache of the people leaving the only world they ever knew for one where opportunity is said to abound. We must become equally resolute in a desire to address both that which affects us directly and that which doesn’t seem to.

This may be an oversimplification but I believe many of the problems society-at-large faces could be resolved simply by seeing things as another.

Compassion means to care deeply. One of the greatest problems facing modern society is genuine unfeeling. When you have compassion for someone, you concern yourself with what is going on in their lives. Are they happy? Sad? Hurt? Hungry. Compassion also moves us to do something about areas.

In the institutional church, you will hear messages of unconditional love but, given the first opportunity, demonstration of it is lacking. Matter of fact, in many “commuter congregations,” you have to drive by wide swaths of blight, homelessness, and despair just to get to church. In a best-case scenario, the commuter congregants may actually have empathy for these folks (e.g., how did they get there) but lack any genuine concern.

One question we need to ask ourselves is “whom do we really care about?” This is a painful question if properly internalized — especially if you consider yourself a “person of faith.” Why? Because most people don’t care about humanity beyond their own bloodline, race, religion, or community. If processed with anything resembling intellectual honesty, most of us don’t care for anyone outside the aforementioned groups.

Compassion takes empathy a step further. When true compassion is manifest, once we’ve sought the “why” through empathy, we begin to seek out the “who,” “what,” “where,” and “when” do we help. Upon identifying these, we now begin to imagine and craft solutions, turning information, knowledge, understanding, and wisdom into a coherent “how.”

Empathy helps us to see humanity not only as ourselves but as divinity. Compassion honors divine humanity by filling the needs we see.

Before you accuse me of being accusatory, let me say — for the record — that I once felt that way. That is, if it didn’t have a direct impact upon my life or those closest to me, I really didn’t care.

But when I really began to understand what love is, I repented or changed my mind! Love taught me that all humanity — indeed, all creation — is interconnected and interdependent. I now understand that it’s not “there but for the grace of God, go I” but “there go we, together!”

When you truly love, you will go out of your way not to hurt or offend. Not only that, but you will also go out of your way to try and bless them. This isn’t “political correctness,” per se, but exercising true empathy and compassion.

Think about it, if you walk in another’s shoes or see things through the eyes of others, you take the time to try and understand how your actions may impact them. Many times we do and say things unlovingly — that is, we operate purely from our own perspective. When we look at things only from our own point of view, we exclude the viewpoint of others.

Love is inclusive — it invites people to the table; it doesn’t exclude them.

Now that we know what love is, we need to know what love does.

Love goes out of its way to bless (speak well of and do good for) and not to hurt (speak ill of and do bad to) anything or anyone.

If you have any doubt as to what love is or what love does, here’s your metric!


Are you a wanderer in faith? Here’s some good news: NOT ALL WHO WANDER ARE LOST!

That said, I cordially invite you to NOMAD 2020 — a live virtual event featuring Keith Giles, Karl and Laura Forehand, Kyle Butler, Cody and Elaine Johnston, Katy Valentine, Todd Vick, PK Langley, Bill Thrasher. Earlybird discount registration is available now at:

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