“Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Proverbs 16:24
Several years ago, someone wrote an article about the late Robert Kennedy. It was about an event that occurred not long after the assassination of his brother, President John F. Kennedy. Robert, still heavy in heart, decided to appear publicly for the first time in order to honor a commitment to attend a party for orphaned children. When he arrived, he walked hesitantly into a room of noisy children. Suddenly, one little boy noticed Mr. Kennedy, ran up to him and shouted, “Your brother’s dead! Your brother’s dead!” The room fell silent. The young child realized that he had done something wrong and began to cry. But Kennedy rose to the occasion. He bent down, swept up the boy in his arms, and held him close. A friend standing with Robert heard him whisper graciously, “It’s all right, I have another brother.”
We live in a day and age where the tongue is used more to tear or wound than to heal. As Christians, today more than ever, we can and need to use the power of our tongues to heal those that are hurting around us. So often when we encounter someone with strong emotions, like anger, fear, or sadness, we feel uncomfortable and try to make it go away. So, we might avoid the issue, or even push back against the person who is angry. Or we can stay safely disengaged but still seem like we’re caring by staying just on the surface sharing our “chicken soup” words of wisdom – it feels good, but doesn’t really meet the need.
As representatives of the God who not just cares (1 Peter 5:7), but who also engages with the hurting (1 John 4:9-10), we need to take the opportunities He places around us to engage with heartfelt love and compassion. We need to seek to understand the source of people’s pain and engage with it. In a word to show them – empathy. It is hard and uncomfortable, but it’s one of the best ways I know that we can reflect the image of the God we know and love.
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” (Colossians 3:12)