I know, it’s Tuesday. I wanted to post something serious for Memorial Day, but I thought the clip below was good enough to make an appearance even on Tuesday.

HT:22 Words

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15 thoughts on “Monday Morning Humor”

  1. Dave says:

    Yeah, very funny, but be careful.

    It seems to me that this clip mocks empathy, suggesting that what people really need is not to be listened to and empathically understood, but to be told what to do.

    Yes and no.

    Biblical counselling will be directive in the areas in which God’s word is directive. Often we do need to be told what to do.

    But (and I speak as a counsellor who qualified and worked in a secular context before moving into Biblical counselling, and has observed this pattern many times), when some people are being directive there is no Biblical reason or need whatever for them to tell the other person what to do, rather they like to be directive because it’s so much easier than actually getting alongside the other person through listening and empathy.

    The woman in the clip says:
    “You always try to fix things when what I really need is for you to listen…”

    Yeah, it’s funny given she literally has a nail in her head.

    But I’ve interacted with countless clients whose relationships are messed up largely because one or both people simply don’t know how to listen and empathise, instead they are constantly trying to ‘fix things’ for the other person instead of listening and understanding. And because they don’t listen in the first place, their suggested ‘fixes’ are largely irrelevant, unhelpful, and miss the mark anyway.

    About listening and empathy:
    James 1:19, Proverbs 10:19, Proverbs 18:13, Proverbs 17:27, Proverbs 18:2, Proverbs 29:20, Romans 12:15

  2. Hermonta Godwin says:

    Dave,
    It is interesting that you bring up how this video subtlety attack empathy. The same point is made by an author using the same video and he believes such attacks are a good thing. The answer is compassion instead of empathy – http://alastairadversaria.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/an-ethic-of-nerve-and-compassion/

  3. Becky Boyd says:

    If a woman posted this, she would be saying, see how dense I can be sometimes — ha ha!

    If a man posts this, he would be saying, see how dense women can be, and see what a boor I am for posting it.

    But let’s look at the broader implications if we apply the scenario to one of the favored dogmas of the day. You’re a sinner, I’m a sinner. We’re all gonna sin so just forgive and get over it. You HAVE to forgive me cause your sin stinks just as bad as mine.

    Well, with this doctrine, guess what. The sin, has still left a big glaring nail hole. And unless the sinner STOPS sinning, the nail is still there causing pain and damage. And who do you think, probably gave the woman a nail in her head to begin with, with his strong male leadership and hammering skills?

    Maybe whoever puts the nails out there to begin with ought to do something about them and stop making fun of suffering.

  4. Dave says:

    Hermonta

    Thanks for the link. When the author of that article discusses “ethics of empathy”, he is describing a form of empathy that is nothing like the Biblical form I am referring to.

    I have encountered the form of empathy he (rightly) criticizes as one commonly encouraged in secular ‘psychotherapy’. It is so post-modern. You have your truth, I have mine, who’s to say who is right or wrong. Everything is subjective and relative, so don’t ever tell someone they are wrong, just seek to understand their narrative, and empathise with their world as they understand it, and so on.

    Such empathy is obviously contradicted by a Biblical world view.

    Just because the world gets empathy wrong by turning the other person’s feelings into an absolute for them, is no reason to reject the Biblical form of empathy.

    Biblical empathy is as Paul instructs in Romans 12:15.

    My post was clear that a Biblical response will be directive when God’s word is directive.

    But there is something of the Pharisee in most of us, we so often like to make up rules of our own and tell other people what to do, being (inappropriately) directive instead of listening and empathising. Jesus wasn’t impressed by the way teachers of the law liked to make up their own rules and burden everyone else with them, Luke 11:46

    Biblical empathy is about weeping with those who weep, and rejoicing with those who rejoice. So it most certainly does involve being sensitive to the other person’s feelings, being willing to understand and share them. But it does not regard the other person’s feelings as an absolute for the other person which should never be rebuked or corrected. Biblical empathy does not make sensitivity to the other person’s feelings the most important requirement, regardless of what Scripture may speak to their situation.

    Bur many of the Christians I’ve met err far more on the side of not being willing to listen and empathise, than on the side of giving empathy such importance that they fail to be directive when they ought to be.

    They are already very keen to be directive, and slow to listen and empathise. What they haven’t grasped is the difference between being directive because God’s word on the situation requires so, and being directive simply because they like to tell other people what to do.

    A Biblical approach will most certainly include listening and empathy, but also direction when Scripture requires, which will include the many forms that Biblical direction can take.

    The compassion that the author of that linked article describes fails to be compassionate if it does not at least include the Biblical form of empathy.

  5. Darby says:

    y’all are thinking too hard :)

  6. Ryan Howard says:

    I think this video hits the nail on the head

  7. tlives says:

    A hammer has two sides…one for pounding the nail further in and another for pulling it out.

  8. hespenshied says:

    Amen Darby……..goodness gracious, I’d hate to see what some folks here would do with a Far Side cartoon.

  9. Dave says:

    To Darby and hespenshied:

    If you fail to realise that humour can be used to communicate some very serious messages (and this clip does precisely that), then you are not thinking hard enough. The result will be that those messages will get under your radar and influence you unfiltered and unchecked.

    In fact, sometimes people will use humour to communicate their message precisely because they don’t want you to filter and process it before accepting it.

  10. Hermonta Godwin says:

    Dave,

    How would you differentiate between an error and lacking the “right” kind of empathy?

  11. Dave says:

    Hermonta

    I’m not sure I understand your question. It is an error to lack the right kind of empathy. There is no difference.

    I am also not sure why you place quote marks around ‘right’ in your expression “the ‘right’ kind of empathy”. Do you think that there is no such thing as the right kind of empathy?

    Empathy is often defined as understanding the other person’s feelings and sharing with them in a way that communicates that understanding back to them, so that they feel understood.

    Paul told us to rejoice with those who rejoice, and to weep with those who weep. He seemed to regard that as part of living in harmony with one another, as he goes on to instruct in Romans 12.

    Clearly, rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep requires, first of all, that we listen carefully so that we understand what the other person’s joys or sorrows are.

    Secondly, rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep clearly describes a way of interacting which is deeply sensitive to the other person’s feelings, and unafraid to share with them at that level.

    I don’t understand why any Bible-believing Christian would reject any of that as a product of secular ‘psychotherapy’, given that it is clearly instructed in Scripture.

    What we must not do is make empathy the only requirement, or the most important requirement, for Scripture has a great deal more to say on how to respond and interact in different situations. e.g. The Bible does not empathise with our sin, it commands us to repent.

  12. Hermonta Godwin says:

    Dave,

    “I’m not sure I understand your question. It is an error to lack the right kind of empathy. There is no difference.”

    My point is that a person can say or do something less than helpful and still not be guilty of lacking concern for another. They simply erred in deciding what the right/correct thing to do was. When you put forward your position, it did not seem to leave any room for such situations.

    “I am also not sure why you place quote marks around ‘right’ in your expression “the ‘right’ kind of empathy”. Do you think that there is no such thing as the right kind of empathy?”

    I did such because I do not think that you have put forward a case for why the article linked earlier was wrong to place empathy against compassion and then choose compassion.

    “Empathy is often defined as understanding the other person’s feelings and sharing with them in a way that communicates that understanding back to them, so that they feel understood.”

    If you wish to define it that way, then there are times when it is improper/impossible to fulfill such. It is highly dependent on the particular circumstances.

    “Paul told us to rejoice with those who rejoice, and to weep with those who weep. He seemed to regard that as part of living in harmony with one another, as he goes on to instruct in Romans 12.”

    Paul didn’t give a blank check to do such whenever anyone is crying regardless of the circumstances. For example, I am not crying with the woman who was rejected by the married man. I am also not crying with the homosexual who was denied the right to marry his loved one by the courts etc. Compassion focuses on what the other needs for their good, not simply what makes them feel better.

    “Clearly, rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep requires, first of all, that we listen carefully so that we understand what the other person’s joys or sorrows are. ”

    Again we are not talking about blank checks.

    “Secondly, rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep clearly describes a way of interacting which is deeply sensitive to the other person’s feelings, and unafraid to share with them at that level.”

    We should be unafraid to share with others at whatever level is appropriate. Sometimes that means crying and hugging. Sometimes that means risks their wrath by not partaking in their grief or their joy.

    “I don’t understand why any Bible-believing Christian would reject any of that as a product of secular ‘psychotherapy’, given that it is clearly instructed in Scripture.”

    We need to make sure that we do not make Paul say something that he does not say.

    “What we must not do is make empathy the only requirement, or the most important requirement, for Scripture has a great deal more to say on how to respond and interact in different situations. e.g. The Bible does not empathise with our sin, it commands us to repent.”

    It does exactly that, which is why I go with compassion over empathy.

  13. Dave says:

    Hermonta

    Most of your arguments attack a straw man, you are failing to grasps what I have written.

    “I do not think that you have put forward a case for why the article linked earlier was wrong to place empathy against compassion and then choose compassion.”

    I have made a watertight case in pointing you to Romans 12:15, but your problem is that you are determined not to see it.

    The commonly accepted definition of empathy, which I quoted, is precisely what Romans 12:15 instructs. It tells us to be willing to get alongside others in their joys and sorrows, and to respond in a way that communicates those same emotions, and Paul puts this in the context of living in harmony with one another.

    To speak of pitting empathy against compassion and choosing compassion makes no sense. It’s incoherent. Compassion that rejects empathy is not compassion. In order to be compassionate, you must first carefully listen to the other person, and accurately understand their thoughts and emotions, otherwise your response will be wide of the mark.

    Rejecting empathy is rejecting Romans 12:15. Go back and read that verse again.

    “Paul didn’t give a blank check to do such whenever anyone is crying regardless of the circumstances”

    I never say that he did! (Where do you get this from? You’re not doing a very good job of understanding my viewpoint, but that’s perhaps not surprising given the low importance you attach to being willing to understand others). You seem to have difficulty in reading and understanding my comments. Go back and read how I am clear regarding the Biblical boundaries to empathy, and the need to respond with direction when Scripture requires, which will include the many forms that Biblical direction can take, and which can certainly include rebuke, and will do so when unrepentant sin is involved. I never said otherwise.

    I couldn’t have been clearer that Scripture does not empathise with sin but rebukes sin.

    Your problem is that you are so determined to reject empathy altogether, supposedly in favour of compassion as an alternative.

    Being willing to understand how others feel is vitally important, even when rebuke might be called for. You cannot accurately gauge how to respond Biblically if you have not first listened and empathically understood.

    Empathy is necessary even in everyday life. People who know something of how to understand the other person’s feelings, and how to communicate that understanding back to them so that they feel understood, tend to have more successful relationships with others. By contrast, it is a well known phenomenon that people diagnosed as being somewhere on the autism spectrum tend to have great difficulty understanding other people’s feelings, and run in to all kinds of relational problems as a result.

    That shouldn’t surprise us, given that Scripture teaches that knowing how to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep is part of living in harmony with others. Romans 12:15-16

    I am not telling you to empathise with people’s sin, but to stop rejecting empathy wholesale as something utterly wrong, as though you can have compassion without it.

    I choose empathy *and* compassion, and Biblical responses too which will sometimes include rebukes, because that is how Scripture teaches us to interact.

  14. Hermonta Godwin says:

    Dave,

    It is very instructive in what you decided to skip in your response. You avoided my direct claim that a person can error in response to another without being guilty of lacking concern. In your previous posts, you directly link erroneous responses with being a Pharisee and not caring about the Bible. Such simply is not the case!

    H: “I do not think that you have put forward a case for why the article linked earlier was wrong to place empathy against compassion and then choose compassion.”

    D: “I have made a watertight case in pointing you to Romans 12:15, but your problem is that you are determined not to see it.”

    It is only a watertight if you assume that Paul is giving a blank check which you deny below.

    D: “The commonly accepted definition of empathy, which I quoted, is precisely what Romans 12:15 instructs. It tells us to be willing to get alongside others in their joys and sorrows, and to respond in a way that communicates those same emotions, and Paul puts this in the context of living in harmony with one another.”

    That definition is one that I do not agree with. One should communicate the emotions that are appropriate in a certain situation regardless of how the other person feels or which emotions they are holding at that time. One is to live in harmony as far as they are able to do so. (Such is found in many places beyond the verse in question). There is a point where the push for harmony becomes an embracing of cowardice.

    D: “To speak of pitting empathy against compassion and choosing compassion makes no sense. It’s incoherent. Compassion that rejects empathy is not compassion. In order to be compassionate, you must first carefully listen to the other person, and accurately understand their thoughts and emotions, otherwise your response will be wide of the mark.”

    This is true.

    D: “Rejecting empathy is rejecting Romans 12:15. Go back and read that verse again.”

    Now you seem to be equivocating on what you see empathy as entailing. If empathy is simply listening and understanding a person emotions and intentions, then you can’t use Romans 12:15 as your defense because that verse talks about an action done in response to the other person, not simply understanding them.

    If empathy means listening and then necessarily partaking in the same emotions as the other person, then it is simply the “bad” kind of empathy because the other’s emotions are the highest focus of your attention.

    H: “Paul didn’t give a blank check to do such whenever anyone is crying regardless of the circumstances”

    D: “I never say that he did! (Where do you get this from? You’re not doing a very good job of understanding my viewpoint, but that’s perhaps not surprising given the low importance you attach to being willing to understand others). You seem to have difficulty in reading and understanding my comments. Go back and read how I am clear regarding the Biblical boundaries to empathy, and the need to respond with direction when Scripture requires, which will include the many forms that Biblical direction can take, and which can certainly include rebuke, and will do so when unrepentant sin is involved. I never said otherwise.”

    The problem here then is that if there are higher goals beyond the emotions of the other, then we are not talking about empathy anymore. The normal definition of empathy is not simply understanding the emotions of others but also sharing those same emotions. If it wasn’t then it would make no sense to appeal to Romans 12:15. The problem then is that only makes sense if you make the emotions the highest concern, which as you say here and said earlier, is wrong.

    D: “I couldn’t have been clearer that Scripture does not empathise with sin but rebukes sin.”

    Alright, then the position that you are advocating is not empathy.

    D: “Your problem is that you are so determined to reject empathy altogether, supposedly in favour of compassion as an alternative.”

    The problem is that you are either equivocating or simply incoherent.

    D: “Being willing to understand how others feel is vitally important, even when rebuke might be called for. You cannot accurately gauge how to respond Biblically if you have not first listened and empathically understood.”

    If empathy is only about deep understanding, then Romans 12:15, is not in support of it; because that passage speaks to the response after the understanding is done.

    D: “Empathy is necessary even in everyday life. People who know something of how to understand the other person’s feelings, and how to communicate that understanding back to them so that they feel understood, tend to have more successful relationships with others. By contrast, it is a well known phenomenon that people diagnosed as being somewhere on the autism spectrum tend to have great difficulty understanding other people’s feelings, and run in to all kinds of relational problems as a result.”

    The problem here in your description of empathy is that you are making the other person the final arbiter of whether or not you are showing proper concern. My showing proper concern is independent of their feelings toward me. There will be times when others are upset with me and what I say regardless of how I express it or whether or not I am correct in expressing it. This is easily seen in the examples that I used in the last post.

    D: “That shouldn’t surprise us, given that Scripture teaches that knowing how to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep is part of living in harmony with others.”

    Correct.

    D: “I am not telling you to empathise with people’s sin, but to stop rejecting empathy wholesale as something utterly wrong, as though you can have compassion without it.”

    The problem is that compassion does not take the other’s emotions as the highest focus while empathy does just that. I see no reason that one is unable to have compassion without empathy. Compassion has never excluded listening and understanding.

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Kevin DeYoung


Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor of University Reformed Church (RCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, near Michigan State University. He and his wife Trisha have six young children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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