Being able to walk in the shoes of others before we speak or act is an important life quality. Stephen Covey, in his ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’, encourages people to seek first to understand. Empathy enables us to slow down and consider how our words and actions might impact on others or to consider ways in which we might walk alongside people in need and offer support. Seeking to understand often means unpacking the question of what is important or valued by people, particularly at times where we find ourselves in conflict. When we understand the values that might be behind another person’s actions, there is a greater opportunity to find the third way.
The prayer of St Francis provides opportunity for powerful reflection for how we might live with empathy at our core.
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.
(https://www.catholic.org.au/prayers/st-francis-prayer, viewed on Thursday 10th September 2020)