Lament: Part 1
Everyone’s got their own set of troubles
Everyone’s got their own set of blues
Everyone’s got their own set of struggles
Walk a mile in another man’s shoes
– Walk A Mile In Another Man’s Shoes | Drew Holcomb
One of the greatest acts of kindness one human can do for another, is to look into their eyes and listen to their story. Not the kind of listening in order to compare struggles or critique details or immediately offer “solutions” to any problems, but the kind of listening that tries to put yourself in their shoes so that what swells in your heart is empathy and a willingness to meet them where they are. Help is always better when it is informed and collaborative.
When the ills of the world are abundant and chaotic, there are many feelings we as human beings encounter, guiding how we respond. Below are four common feelings that often become springheads of action (or inaction) when people see and hear what’s going on around them.
- Fear → When the world feels like it is spinning out of control, fear is a very natural response because of the threat of the unknown. The potential of harm, loss of security, or even loss of life raises anxiety too, oftentimes, crippling levels because of this base feeling of fear.
- Indifference → Indifference is tricky because it can arise from different places. One place it can arise is from the sheer volume of exposure to the evil in this world. Another is the implicit practice of “othering,” which looks at people who are different from you and categorizes them in ways that continue to distance their pain from you.
- Anger → Another common feeling toward ills, particularly injustice, is anger. Anger is oftentimes the appropriate response to certain ills and it is part of the way humans are hardwired to put energy toward solutions. Anger becomes problematic when it is directed toward others instead of the issues at hand.
- Compassion → When suffering is taking place, many times people feel a deep sense of compassion for those who are experiencing it. Compassion is another appropriate response because it is the place that births a willingness to bear others’ burdens. Where mere sympathy may keep its distance, compassion moves toward the hurting.
You don’t have to look far to see brokenness in every direction. From the earthquake/hurricane in Haiti, to what is happening in Afghanistan, to the suffering and injustice you see in your own neighborhoods, not to mention the massive toll COVID-19 has taken on the entire world, ills aren’t hard to come by at this moment in time.
As you see the pain around you, reflect on these four feelings and ask God to search your heart to reveal your default response. Self-awareness, through God’s nearness, is the first step of being able to “walk a mile in another man’s shoes.” Perhaps you’ve had a different default in different seasons. Perhaps your own experience of trauma has informed how you respond to certain situations. Perhaps you have a relationship with someone who has experienced suffering that has shaped the way you think and feel about these things.
Regardless, the Bible has much to say about chaos and response and we’ll explore this in the next post.