Faith, Reason, Justice. Although we may be sick of them at times, these three words touch on an underlying Christian value: Empathy.
Linguistically speaking, empathy is a noun that means to share in the feelings of others, but I look at it as more of a verb. I was drawn to this college because of the care given to helping those around us, which I feel is lacking in the Christian community.
I was disturbed, however, when I saw the recent anti-abortion messages outside of Walton and the library, and posted on various paths around campus. My main concern here is how people express their pro-life opinions. When such negative terms and imagery are used to express an opinion, no one wins.
Women who are put in this situation are incredibly vulnerable and often feel completely alienated from their families and communities. For this reason, as Christians we need to be especially careful about the language that we use with regard to such sensitive topics. Part of being empathetic is being conscientious of the fact that everyone has a different story and has travelled different roads.
Most women who find themselves in this situation have been through some sort of trauma, whether it was lack of contraceptive use, a life-threatening medical emergency or some other terrible circumstance.
Anyone who is faced with this devastating decision deserves love and support. Christians should be first in line to offer support—not marching up and down picket lines in front of the local Planned Parenthood. Expressing opinions in the right way and the right context can be God-glorifying. Ask yourself: “How would someone in this situation react to what I am expressing?”
Anyone who has been affected by this situation would most likely have experienced feelings of rejection and affliction. And so, when a pro-lifer uses this method to try to convince a woman to have her baby, the woman is made to feel judged, shamed and blamed and is, therefore, unlikely to listen to the pro-life opinion. Such harsh tactics are thus counter-productive—besides which, they actually serve to further traumatize the women targeted.
Instead of wielding condemnation and shame, why not offer support to the woman in need? Open your heart to her and share in her difficult life decision. In doing this, you will be using empathy as a verb, not merely a noun.
As Christians, we are called to be Christlike in our demeanor and our actions. What better way to accomplish this than to practice empathy? After all, Christ Himself is the greatest example of empathy the world has ever known: He took on all of our sins.