I wouldn’t have thought that exercise could make you more empathetic, but that’s one thing I learned from an excellent sermon in our church last Sunday about the Golden Rule. You know the one, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. ” Matthew 7:12
Our pastor, suggested the Golden Rule is basically asking us to be empathetic.
He turned to psychological research to find steps we could take to become more empathetic.
- Exercise. A good workout where we push ourselves and our bodies makes us physically and mentally tough and more sensitive to what pain feels like. By stepping out of the relative ease of our modern life here in North America during a hard run or strenuous bike ride we connect in a small way with the struggle faced by many people around the world who are less fortunate.
Meditation. In particular LKM (loving kindness meditation) that involves spending quiet time each day sending loving and compassionate thoughts to ourselves, our family and friends, our enemies, people around the world who are suffering. This kind of meditative practice sparks the neural connections in our brains linked to empathy. Our pastor suggested it sounded an awful lot like praying.
Volunteering. Regularly setting aside time for charitable work strengthens the empathetic wiring of your brain as you do your part to help someone who is less fortunate than you.
Slow Down. Being empathetic means we make time to truly listen to others and consider their concerns. If we are rushing around from one commitment to another we may not have space for empathy.
Our pastor said every major faith has a commandment something like the Golden Rule. Following it appears to be pretty basic to understanding how we should treat each other no matter what kind of spiritual framework guides our life. I think empathy is the key to a better world.
Thanks to Phil Campbell Enns for a helpful thought-provoking sermon.