I started a post yesterday. I’d had a conversation with an individual about Noah and a health concern to just keep an eye on. I left the conversation with the impression that this individual didn’t hear me, didn’t believe me, and didn’t understand me. I felt completely dismissed. It made me angry.
Empathy, I thought. Where is your empathy?
These feelings are not new. I have experienced many conversations like this. And I think, you just don’t get it. I know I’m not alone, I have heard other parents of children with special needs express the same frustration. It’s a gratifying experience to speak to someone who truly does understand your situation. And it’s definitely a frustrating experience to open your heart, expose your worries, share valuable information with relevant individuals, and to feel ignored and dismissed.
So. I, parent of children with special needs, Speech-Language Pathologist, special needs advocate (with a blog no less!), determined to do something about it.
I will write a post (you really need to imagine my adamant index finger pointing upward here) about how to speak with empathy to special needs families! “What NOT to say to the parent of a child with special needs.” People just don’t get it.
So I even Googled some articles about empathy, how to be empathetic, strategies to ensure empathy, I was on a role.
But this morning, God stopped me.
There I was, halfway through my coffee, halfway through my Bible study, and God stopped me. Priscilla Shirer (LOVE her) probed, “Is there an area of life where you’ve been focusing on changing your behavior instead of maintaining healthy spiritual growth?”
I kept reading. “Using your own grit and personal resolution to force changes in your behavior is not only exhausting to maintain but nearly always proves to be nothing more than a temporary fix.”
Yes. It is exhausting to try to get people to understand. Because people don’t understand!
You just don’t understand. Nobody really gets it. That is NOT the voice of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit’s prompts are never self-focused, painting a picture of isolation and misunderstanding. The pressure I’ve felt, to make people understand, that is not of God.
But I realize how attentively I’ve been listening to it. And further clarity – THIS IS A WEAPON OF THE ENEMY. A barb, a poisonous dart, that’s been driven into my mind, my perspective, even to some extent my self-identity.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…” John 10:10a
Then a different thought. A different voice. “It doesn’t matter if PEOPLE don’t understand. I understand.”
And with that whisper, I realize how much needless effort I’ve wasted and how many burdens have I set upon my own shoulders, just being frustrated at people, with people.
So much wrong with this.
Number one, God has called me to a more abundant, peace-filled life than that. “…I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10b
Number two, when I’m frustrated with people? When I’m angry and don’t give any credit for a good intention, for a well-meaning comment? Where, then, is my empathy?
My focus has been on the wrong things. MY ISSUES.
What if all the time and energy I’ve spent trying to make people understand ME, I’d been praising God?
Ouch. Cue the tears falling, all over Priscilla’s study book.
Now, please don’t get me wrong. I still think that being educated and informed about a person’s condition so that we DO treat people with sensitivity is important. But what God revealed to me that my priority is to be holy and set apart and ever growing in His grace. To REST in the holy hope that is found only in Him. And that is much more important than making sure people get it, get ME. Who am I, anyway? What is my little life compared to the glory of God?
And, He gets me. He understands.
I want to continue to share my story, but with a different purpose. I want people to see my passion for Jesus, not my impassioned indignation when I perceive that I or my children are being misunderstood. I want to share all the great things He’s done for us because of our children. I want to be thankful in all things — in 22q11.2 deletion syndrome and ADHD. And neurotypical! All things!
I want to raise awareness for the Savior of the world. Through my little story.
Lord, I know I will encounter discouraging people and experiences. Help me to see their good intentions and lay down my own self-importance. In those moments, teach ME empathy. Teach me grace.
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” Romans 12:18
“The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.” Proverbs 18:21
“Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16
I encourage you to read anything from Priscilla Shirer. I am currently going through Discerning the Voice of God in our ladies’ Bible study. Its already amazing.