What Does Empathy Have to Do With Resilience?


If you had to list the qualities that make up resilience, what would you put on that list? Up until recently, my list would have been made up of words that were – for the most part – just synonyms for resilience. However, I’m currently 2/3rds of the way through a resiliency workshop and they get a whole lot more specific. They list nine qualities that resilient people have.

Eight out of the nine made total sense to me. But the ninth totally caught me off-guard: Empathy. Does that surprise you? Don’t get me wrong – personally, I’m a huge fan of empathy. I’m just saying that I don’t exactly see any hyper-resilient Marvel or D.C. characters named “Captain Empathy.”

It got me curious. Does the Bible say anything about resilience? And, if so, does the Bible’s definition of resilience include anything about empathy? I found my answer in chapter 12 of Hebrews. Check it out:

So, take a new grip with your tired hands and stand firm on your shaky legs. Mark out a straight path for your feet. Then, those who follow you, though they are weak and lame, will not stumble and fall but will become strong.

Hebrews 12:12-13 NLT 1998

That first sentence definitely sounds like resilience to me. Day after day, taking a new grip with tired hands and standing firm on shaky legs. And then add to it the first part of the second sentence, “Mark out a straight path for your feet.” Yep. Resilience definitely has a huge degree of intentionality. All pretty predictable so far. But then…

Then, those who follow you, though they are weak and lame, will not stumble and fall but will become strong.

Merriam-Webster defines empathy as: “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.

When I make it a priority to be sensitive of my family, friends and community and listen to how some may be feeling – as the Bible verse says – weak or lame, that’s engaging in empathy. When I consider the fact that my actions can help them – as the Bible verse says – not stumble and fall but… become strong, that’s resilient empathy in action.

So, resilience is not just being strong for yourself but allowing yourself to see that you’re not an island. To be resilient, you need to be able to connect with other people.

What do YOU think of that? Comment below or email me at Emily@messyworship.com if this topic surprises you or if you have a personal experience with the resilience-empathy connection.

Prayer: Dear Lord, you are the creator of resilience and – looking at your existence – I can see it in all that you do. I also witness your love, humility and servitude woven into that resilience with perfect harmony. Please help me find this balance in my life. Thank you for being resilient and empathetic with me always. Amen.

Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash

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