Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. [1 Peter 3:8 (NIV)]
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. [Romans 12:15 (NIV)]
I watched as the couple extended their selfie stick and posed. Focusing only on themselves, they were oblivious to others on the beach and the beautiful sunset behind them. In love and on vacation, for the moment the world revolved around them and nothing else mattered.
It’s not just when we’re in love that we think the world revolves around us. When encountering difficulties, we often get out an emotional selfie stick. Focusing solely on ourselves, we end up throwing a pity party or, as one friend says, “Sitting on the pity potty!” We whine, “Look at me,” and that’s exactly what we do—we look at ourselves. “Poor me…my life is so difficult…I hurt…it’s unfair…no one understands my situation…I’m miserable…no one cares!” We become so focused on ourselves and our situation that we can’t see God let alone anyone else!
On the other hand, if we put aside the selfie stick and turn the camera around, we begin to see God’s hand and realize we’re not alone. When we use a wide-angle lens, we expand our view, see people with problems of their own, and our difficulties cease being the center of our lives. When we use the camera’s panoramic setting, we realize how many suffer and suffer far more than we do on even our worst day.
Oddly, when we recognize the pain of others, our pain is lessened, not because they might hurt more than we do but because we become united with them in our anguish. Rather than wallowing in self-pity, widening our perspective allows empathy and compassion to emerge. No longer alone in our suffering, we become connected with others in this flawed and troubled world of ours. No longer isolated in our distress, we move from focusing on the “me” to caring about the “we.”
Father, open our eyes to you and to the world around us. Broaden our view to that we see the purpose in pain, the lesson in loss, and the meaning in misery. Give us compassionate hearts and peace filled souls. If we are to cry, let our tears be for others and, if we are to mourn, let our mourning be for all who grieve. Please strengthen and comfort us so that we can strengthen and comfort others.
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. [Viktor Frankl]