We are drawn to people who understand us.
Who can peek into our world.
We sense they know us.
We feel seen and heard. Connected with them.
We tell them a sad story and they sympathize.
They ask questions. Wanting to better understand.
We tell them our dreams and they don’t laugh. Our hurts, and they don’t recoil, but instead offer bandages and encouragement. We give them a glimpse of our true self we usually hide, and they don’t judge.
What do these people have that draws us to them? They have the ability to get out of themselves and see another point of view. One different than their own.
Interacting with people lacking this characteristic.
I think we all know someone who lacks this characteristic. To see a different view point than their own.
We tell them our dream, and because it isn’t what they would do, our dream is shot down by them.
We share our feelings, and they belittle them. Maybe question therm. Tell us we are wrong to feel that way.
We try and talk about our self, and they shift the conversation back to be about them.
They work hard to win an argument, because they can only see their side, and of course it is right (to them).
We tell them something sad, like our dad died, they say they are sorry, and then march right on with their agenda.
It seems impossible for them to mourn with us or rejoice with us.
All conversation keeps coming back to them.
We don’t feel listened to, encouraged, understood, or hardly acknowledged when we leave their presence.
What is wrong?
What is different about these two people?
What makes us thrive and bloom in the presence of one, and shrink and feel neglected and unseen in the presence of the other?
One can step out of themselves and see another point of view than their own. The other can’t (or rarely does). They cannot (or refuse to) see and acknowledge another viewpoint than their own.
We may call them self-centered. Self-absorbed. Extremely selfish. And even a narcissist.
But one trait they all share is they all lack the desire or ability to see different perspectives. To put themselves in another person’s place. To look at something from another point of view.
They see and acknowledge only their point of view. Their perspective. Their ideas, opinions, and arguments. And unless you need them to remind you again, only their opinions, ideas, argument, feelings, and point-of view is correct. Well according to them. And they are quick to tell you that yours is wrong when it disagrees or differs with theirs.
So why does this matter?
We as humans are able to have empathy, compassion and sympathize with others only if we can see (this doesn’t mean agree with) or understand to some extent the other person’s point of view.
Maybe we have a friend who gets quiet and visibly anxious every time there is a conflict. We may encourage them to be more assertive. More direct. But when we learn that every time there was a conflict in her childhood home her parents were verbally abusive to each other and to the children, a light goes on in our head. Suddenly we understand her behavior. We see her point of view and why she gets quiet. She is bracing herself for the storm.
We have put our self in her shoes. We have demonstrated empathy. Which is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another without having experienced the exact same thing.
We won’t tell her to suck it up. Quit being a wimp. Tell her she is too sensitive. Or belittle her.
No, we will demonstrate compassion. Which is showing sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others. It is understanding the pain of another and trying to lessen it.
We will say we are sorry she grew up in a household like that. That we understand her anxiety during conflict. We will encourage her and sympathize with her. And our advice will take her background and experiences into account.
Benefits of seeing another viewpoint.
There are many advantages to being able to see other points of views.
This trait allows us to show compassion. Empathy. Kindness. Tenderness. Care and concern. Patience. Love. Long suffering. Gentleness. Mercy. Grace.
Seeing a point of view other than our own helps us understand people. Helps us forgive people. Keeps us from being so judgmental and critical. Lessons our hypocrisy. Assists us in releasing anger against others.
Seeing the world and people from a perspective other than our own helps us rejoice with those around us and mourn with those around us.
And just because we can see another’s point of view, does not mean we agree with them. But it does allow us to better understand them and their decisions.
Seeing other point of views helps us better understand our self. It can change or validate our feelings, thoughts, and viewpoint. It helps us learn and grow.
It helps us be better parents. Bosses, Employees. Neighbors. Children. Friends. Citizens.
It encourages us to be less selfish and self-focused.
And it makes us more like Jesus.
Jesus is our model of someone who can identify with other viewpoints.
He wasn’t content to imagine what being a human was like. He came down to experience it.
He knows what it is like to be hungry. To be so tired your eyes keep closing and your head is nodding up and down. He understands what cold feels like and how a tasty meal can be the highlight of a day.
He knows what it is like to scrape a knee. Struggle to learn something new. Live in an unperfect family. Have the town gossip about you.
He knows what it is like to obey parents. To feel the wind blow. To laugh at a joke. To walk far on a hot day.
He knows about being a human and all that goes with it because he willingly humbled himself so he could better empathize, sympathize, and understand us.
He wanted to know our point of view. What it was like to live in an unperfect world with sin and suffering. Kindness and hate. Joy and unrest. Love and anger.
We are told he experienced it all and can empathize with us as our brother.
And his attitude demonstrates this.
He didn’t tell the lame man that he should have been a vegan and taken his vitamins, no he had compassion on him and healed him.
He didn’t lecture the lady caught in adultery and recite her sins to all who would listen, making her the object of a lecture so others could learn from her bad example. No, he had compassion on her and told her to sin no more.
He offered her grace. What she did not earn or deserve.
And he offers us the same.
The dangers of seeing only our viewpoint.
Our enemy want us to keep our eyes focused only on our self. To see only our perspective. To promote our beliefs and opinions.
He doesn’t want us to see other perspectives. To put our self in another person’s point of view.
Because then we bond and connect with that person. We develop empathy and compassion. We better understand them and sympathize with them.
No, he wants us to criticize, judge, hold a grudge, think of ourselves as superior to them. Accuse instead of ask questions. Fight with them. Hold them in contempt. Adhere to only our viewpoint and consider none other.
But God’s way is to be open to other viewpoints. To love others and God, we have to be open to and consider their viewpoints.
And to become more like Christ, don’t we have to adopt and consider and strive to replace our viewpoint with his view point?
What can we do?
We can develop our empathy and compassion muscles by taking the time and energy to listen to others. Ask questions. And try to understand them and their point of view.
The neat thing is God made us all different. We have different personalities. Gifts and talents. Different things motivate us. Make us sad and happy. We laugh at different jokes. Cry at different movies. Have different favorite foods, colors, and decorating styles. We grew up in different families, environments, and do different jobs.
Let’s be curious and broaden our horizons and thinking.
We can learn more about our self. Examine and understand our view point so we can change and overwrite the flaws we see. Having self-awareness helps us throw off the chains that are slowing us down and keeping us in bad habits.
We can learn to see other perspectives. So we can better love, understand, and connect with those around us. So we become God’s hands and feet to a world who needs grace and compassion.
Above all, we need to see, understand, and develop God’s perspective. His viewpoint is full of truth, grace, and mercy. Which will lead us to be more compassionate and empathetic to our self and others.
Thanks for stopping by. Keep remembering what’s important.
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Join the Discussion: How has seeing other viewpoints helped you?
May link up at Kelly Balarie (#purposeful faitht), Crystal Storms (#HeartEncouragement), Maree Dee (#Grace & Truth), Anita Ojeda (#inspirememonday), and Mary Geison (#tellhisstory).
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I think this blog/post is brilliant. I am truly impressed with the depth of understanding Theresa B shows. Personally, when I strive to understans another’s viewpoint, I like them more and connect more. I love this writer and want her to write even more. One blog is never enough!
Theresa Boedeker says
Thank you for your kind and generous words, Colleen. Yes, understanding another viewpoint connects us to them. It is like a natural glue in relationships.
I LOVE this, Theresa. So thoughtful and inspiring. I never thought of Jesus as the ultimate role model for empathy and seeing the world from another’s point of view, but of course you are right.You have given me something good to think about. Thank you!
Theresa Boedeker says
I have to say, Laurie, that this came to me only after talking at length with my sister about people who couldn’t see other viewpoints.
I can think of no other religion where a God comes down and takes human form and lives among his people. And not as a rich or privileged person, but as a normal person, born into an average family. It is pretty amazing.
Thanks for this, Theresa. At some point, most of us need this gentle reminder to see a situation through someone else’s eyes. There are few gifts greater than love birthed through empathy!
Theresa Boedeker says
So true, Stacey. “There are few gifts greater than love birthed through empathy.”
This is a great post, Theresa! I think empathy is one of the most important qualities we can develop. Everyone wants to feel that others care and understand, and taking time to really listen and to ask questions can help a lot. I had a conversation with a friend last week where I felt I was making all the effort to ask questions and show interest and she was just talking about herself and it can be really draining.
Theresa Boedeker says
It can be draining, and frustrating when we do all the listening and asking questions and there is no reciprocating. And if this is the norm, than it might be an unhealthy relationship. I have learned that someone who refuses to see another viewpoint or take an interest in anything but what they are interested in, is not going to be a life giving friend.
Such an insightful and practical post, Theresa! I think it’s so important to show empathy, but many people, as you pointed out, don’t know how or never saw it modeled. Thanks for giving us the tools to deal with this important issue in life! Pinning!
Theresa Boedeker says
You are right, Beth, so many people don’t know to exhibit empathy.
Sherry Ann T Lee says
Just today I was speaking to a very good friend about healthy friendships vs draining friendships. Thanks for the reminder about differing viewpoints and striving to be more like Jesus!
Theresa Boedeker says
Glad to help.