It is a truism, but we don't experience life in exactly the same way.
This week I talked with some people who are having a hard time figuring out what to do with all the free time they suddenly have. Because they are unable to go to work, they are essentially trapped at home. And they are frustrated because they are having trouble filling all of their free time.
This week I also talked with people who say that they have never worked this hard before. Their work schedule has actually increased, and added to the extra hours are new stresses and responsibilities. After a single week of virus-induced-disruption, these people are exhausted.
Of course, there are people at every point of that spectrum, but consider the two extremes: having too much time on our hands and not having a moment to catch our breath. Well, which is it? Oddly, we are all living in the same, strange world these days -- but our experiences are so different.
It is generally very hard for us to see something from another's point of view, and that is especially hard these days. But it is a mark of spiritual maturity, I think, to attempt to do exactly that. Rather than simply dismissing other views or making light of them, we are wise -- and we are kind -- to honor what others are feeling (whether or not we have the same feelings ourselves).
I'm not sure that I'd call that a spiritual gift, but it certainly is kind.
In Galatians 6:2, we are instructed to "carry each other's burdens." Even further, we're told that doing this will "fulfill the law of Christ." One key part of carrying another's burden is seeking to understand, valuing another perspective, and honoring feelings that we might not personally have.
It's interesting, but just a few verses later (in Galatians 6:5), we're told that we should carry our own load!
So we carry each other's burdens . . . and we carry our own load. How, pray tell, do we follow both of those instructions that seem to suggest opposite actions?
It's important to note that the focal words in Galatians 6:2 and 6:5 are different words. The "burden" in 6:2 is "a crushing weight," something that no person can carry alone. The "load" in 6:5 is more like a backpack, something that a person can probably manage. When it comes to a crushing weight, we simply must help one another. At the same time, we need to make certain that we are carrying what we can manage by ourselves.
And as we do that, we extend to one another the special kindness of empathy. We value what the other person is feeling . . . even if we do not happen to be feeling the same thing ourselves.
I suspect that we all know how destructive it is to be told that we are not feeling "the right thing." That's especially damaging when we find ourselves in a time of crisis . . . like today. Of course, there are plenty of ways to help other people these days. But one good first step is to extend to others the simple kindness of empathy.
Even if you and I happen to be in a very different place, I want to give you the freedom to feel what you feel. I hope you'll do the same for me.