Have you ever done Strengthsfinder? If you haven’t, I highly recommend it, even if only to use it to justify your individual quirks as qualities to be celebrated. My top five strengths read like this:
Sounds okay right? Well at first glance its pretty cool, I have always been a glass full kind of girl, happy-go-lucky, bubbly, and outgoing, so positivity wasn’t a huge surprise. Woo? Well lets face it what woman doesn’t know how to use charm to add gentle persuasion to a conversation. Achiever? Yep, I am the girl with the lists that only feels like she has a productive day if said list has at least three lines crossed through it. Activator? I have two children who are fed, dressed, watered and delivered to school (mostly) on time. Enough said.
But Empathy. Yep, that one smacks me right between the eyes every time.
You see, my other strengths are all forward thinking, go getting, lets-live-life-to-the-full kind of strengths. They require decision, motion, action, all of which my energetic caffeine fuelled self is happy to deliver – after at least one cup of the aforementioned coffee.
But empathy? Well that is an inward feeling, heart sinking, conversation stopping strength. Empathy is feeling another person’s hurt, disappointment, anger and betrayal as if it is your own. It stops you in your tracks and demands you to be still, to look at it, to touch it, to hold it, to feel it.
And some days I wish I didn’t.
Some days I wish I was unable to feel the incredibly cruel twist of fate suffered by my loved ones. Sometime I wish I could not feel the searing pain of a knife going through their back, I wish I could not sense the unbearable weight of grief placed upon their shoulders. Sometimes I wish the tears didn’t fall from my eyes as I watched them welling in the eyes of others. Sometime I wish I could be objective and offer practical solutions rather than stifling my own outrage.
But I can’t. Because that is not how I am wired. And if I couldn’t feel, then I wouldn’t be able to act out of my anger to see justice, I wouldn’t be able to cover the wounds of betrayal with soothing words, I wouldn’t be able to replace the heartache with healing love.
Even Jesus empathised. He wept with Mary and Martha over the death of Lazarus, He was moved when He met Jairus who begged Jesus to heal his dying daughter, He sensed the pain of the widow burying her only son.
And because of His empathy, Jesus acted.
Because He was hurting, He brought healing.
We are all given gifts, ‘strengths’ if you will, by God. Some of us are born leaders, able to strategise at the drop of a hat, some can teach, bringing a subject alive like no other, some can host, some can illustrate, some can manage, some can counsel…. the list is endless.
I love that I am positive, I hope that I am fun to be around, that I woo in the nicest way and that I encourage and equip others as well as myself. But I think that these strengths only seek to support my most challenging and yet my most rewarding element; empathy. I can only operate in my strengths because of the strength I find in Jesus, and in Him my positivity will help others to look on the bright side, my woo will persuade them to lift their eyes to the King, and my achiever and activator elements will encourage and equip them on their journey, holding their hand every step of the way.