by Rick Warren — November 30, 2022
From Building a Better Future
“In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.”
Matthew 7:12 (NIV)
There are many ways to earn the respect of others during times of conflict. Yesterday we looked at three of those ways: Pause before you speak, resolve conflict privately, and appeal to the best in people.
But the very first thing you should do is this: Empathize with the feelings of others. If you want people to respect you, you must respect their feelings. What you sow, you will reap. The Bible says, “In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12 NIV).
This is especially true when people are hurting, grieving, fearful, or feel there’s been an injustice against them. People want to know that you understand what they’re going through. They don’t care what you know until they first know that you care.
By the way, you don’t have to agree with someone to empathize with their emotions. When you see people protesting, for example, you may not agree with their conclusions, but you can still try to understand why they’re doing what they’re doing.
When Nehemiah was faced with conflict, the first thing he did was this: He empathized with the feelings of the people who were complaining and criticizing. He said, “When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry” (Nehemiah 5:6 NIV). He didn’t say he was just angry. He said he was very angry.
What was he doing? He was mirroring the mood of the people who were upset. He was validating their feelings by feeling their feelings too. Instead of minimizing their emotions by saying, “Well, don’t be angry,” he showed understanding by saying, “I’m upset too.”
You might be thinking, “Isn’t anger a sin?” No, not always. Sometimes anger is an expression of love. If you hurt someone in my family and I’m apathetic instead of angry, then it suggests I don’t love my family. In Scripture, God distinguishes between righteous anger and unrighteous anger, good anger and bad anger. Ephesians 4:26 says, “Be angry, yet do not sin” (BSB).
Even Jesus got angry when the leaders around him weren’t helping someone in need. Mark 3:5 says that Jesus looked at them angrily and “was deeply disturbed by their indifference to human need” (TLB).
Do you get “deeply disturbed” when you see people being mistreated? If you want to be respected, be like Nehemiah and like Jesus. Empathize with people’s feelings. You don’t have to agree with them, but if you listen empathetically to their feelings, you’ll earn their respect.