EP 125 – CHARACTERISTICS OF A GODLY LEADER: EMPATHY
The Bootcamp Bros are back talking about another characteristic of a godly leader, empathy. Perhaps this is one of the most misunderstood characteristics so some good definition work is in order. Check out this EP and the notes below to dig a little deeper into this very important quality and spend some time examining God’s word, your life and work.
According to Oxford dictionary Empathy is defined as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.”
“According to Carl Rogers, empathy is ‘to perceive the internal frame of reference of another person with accuracy and with the emotional components and meanings that pertain thereto as if one were the person, but without losing the as-if condition.’ In other words, to show empathy toward another individual or group means to imagine what it would be like to be that person or group. One should do so in moderation, without losing the sense of one’s own self in another.”
Scot Mcknight makes the following distinction between Compassion and Empathy:“Compassion is the broader word: it refers to both an understanding of another’s pain and the desire to somehow mitigate that pain. Empathy refers to the ability to relate to another person’s pain vicariously, as if one has experienced that pain themselves.”
Examples of empathy in Scripture:
Romans 12:15 – Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn
Splanchnizomai is often used to describe Jesus being moved with emotion and pity for someone in pain in which Jesus responds with understanding and action.
Here are some references in Mark and Luke, and I italicize the translations of splanchnizomai:
- Mark 1:41Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I do choose. Be made clean!”
- Mark 6:34 As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.
- Mark 8:2I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat.
- Mark 9:22 It has often cast him into the fire and into the water, to destroy him; but if you are able to do anything, have pity on us and help us.
- Luke 7:13 When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, “Do not weep.”
- Luke 10:33 But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity.
- Luke 15:20 So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.
Five Key Characteristics of Leaders with Empathy
- Fully Present
- Active Listening
- Suspends Judgment
- Compassionate Understanding
- Proactive Caring
Check out these helpful articles:
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JimBo Stewart: [00:00:00] Alright, here we are back at it again at the bootcamp. Finally, in my actual home office, that is in my home, not in the garage. I have a little more energy and voice and excitement than last week. Although Bob, sadly to say, I still wouldn’t say I’m 100% back from COVID. I think I’m somewhere around 90 Saturday was not a good day.
I got real lightheaded and, shaky. Like I was, uh, going to Lowe’s and grabbing something and I got a little shaky and, and so, I feel good today and even better because I get to look at your beautiful face on the screen.
Bob Bickford: Well, that’s awesome, man. not that you were sick of course. and shaky and lightheaded. So, and that’s the thing is you, you. A month or more to recover from COVID and you just got to take it easy, plus, you know, you move during COVID, like we said, on the last episode, I think you painted, like, I mean, you painted, you [00:01:00] put down flooring, you excavated rat poop you’ve, you know, went to a football game, like, you know, Jimbo doesn’t slow down.
So I think 90% Jimbo is probably like a hundred percent or 120% more. Most everybody else.
JimBo Stewart: Okay. Okay. Yeah. It’s uh, we actually, this morning, our family, commented, rest is not something we’re very good at. the Stuart’s we’re we’re working on it or getting better about it. but we as a family kind of run at a hundred miles an hour all the time. but we’re, we are learning that there are, there are limits and we have to slow down.
Bob Bickford: That’s true man. And, especially us replant or types. we’ve got a list of 40 things that need to be done and we add 20 to it by the time we, pass nine o’clock in the morning. and we don’t feel good about having a. most of that not done at the end of the day. So, and fury planner learned arrest.
I, I, um, I think the [00:02:00] older I’m getting the more, I’m realizing the importance of rest, cause Jimbo, I’m getting older, I’m slowing down a little bit and I still look a lot younger than I actually am, which I’m thankful for, but, but I’m a little bit slower than I used to.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, it happens, man. I guess it happens to.
the best of us all. Eventually.
Bob Bickford: Yeah. So I’m going to be going to a supper at three 30 today and, the early bird special.
JimBo Stewart: It the AA RP discount and, go to the, go to the early movies.
Bob Bickford: Yeah.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah. I, I, so I was visiting years ago, we went on a vacation as a family to hot Springs, Arkansas. cause we had some family stuff going on and so we tried it. We tied in a little bit of personal vacation time and hot Springs is like old people.
Central. there’s, there’s a lot, a lot of senior adults in hot Springs, Arkansas. I was not aware of that, you know, it was in, so everything’s at a [00:03:00] really slow pace. and the only line I saw, the only time I saw anything really busy when we were hot Springs was the movies. At 1:30 PM. there was just like an insane line of people at cause it’s before two.
So you get the discount, of being before two in all the senior adults, I guess go to the movies at 1:30 PM in hot Springs, Arkansas little travel tip.
Bob Bickford: Yeah, don’t despise the early movie. I have done that, uh, several times, with, with, uh, the lovely and talented and beautiful Mrs. Barb Bickford. And, we liked the daytime movie. Number one is because most of, most of the time we’re pretty sleepy by about 8, 8 39. and the nighttime movies like.
Man, you just do get people in there. And there they’re talking during the movie, you know, I was going to stop. If you go to the old people, man, nobody’s talking, some of them aren’t even awake. Right. So, you know, it’s pretty good
JimBo Stewart: Yourself. You’re sounding older and [00:04:00] older as the, as we go further in the,
podcast. It’s too loud. It’s too late. It’s.
Bob Bickford: get off my lawn.
JimBo Stewart: Well, I’m going to do my best to show empathy to you. is that’s our topic today. I’ll be turning 40 and a few in a few months from now or six months from now and so I I’m entering that, that later stage that ha halfway mark the over the hill, piece here later this year. But I extend my empathy in my understand.
what you’re going through as best I can, as I awkwardly transitioned to our topic of the day, as we continue on the character of leaders in replants and revitalization, we’ve already hit a few topics. We’ve hit humility and Goodwill. And so now we want to talk about. Empathy. and one of the things that was fascinating to me as I started to research this, Bob is there is apparently some debate out there [00:05:00] on whether empathy is something pastoral leaders should have or not.
yeah, there’s, there’s some contention out there on this topic. basically the. Frustration that some people have or hesitancy that some people have, I think is Really.
based on a misunderstanding of what empathy is. And they think that it means, approving of. Behavior or bad, like to have empathy if somebody’s going through something because of sin, maybe would be approving of that sinful lifestyle or behavior.
and so. I really think a good understanding of empathy, a, a scriptural understanding of empathy, would show that it’s something that really we should all have as, uh, as Christians, as followers of Christ, we should exhibit I think a characteristic of Christ and empathy. but especially in. In leading a replant or [00:06:00] revitalization.
And in a future episode, we’re going to talk more about the emotional impact of change. and, and I think empathy plays an important part in that, right. Of understanding that, med change is hard. and, change is a big piece of what we’re talking about in replanting revitalization. So we talk a lot about leading change and, and the process of that and the aspects of that.
And we’re going to go further into that as we continue on. but in that process, I think it’ll go a long way to, to practice empathy for that, to be part of your character that is people describe you or think about you, that they would think about you as somebody that has empathy.
Bob Bickford: Good call the challenge for. A lot of planters, pastors, re planters. Let me, let me just probably say me, planters and high, high D re planters. They’re so committed to the vision. and they love the vision. It’s like, man, let’s go right. Let’s do it. and people. Who’ve been into declining church, have acclimated to that, the decline and acclimated to the [00:07:00] culture, which is not progressive, which is not moving forward, which is not seeing a lot of things happen.
So somebody comes in and, and with the high vision, element and capacity high D personality they’re, they’re not going to have a lot of empathy. It reminds me of when I was an intern at a very large mega church, the, uh, The minister of education, the guy who ran the Sunday school, he, he asked us to call him Mr.
Sunday school. He was hilarious. And, so he brought us into his office and, you know, he would do lectures with us and he said, boys, today, we’re gonna talk about counseling. And I’ve got three GS for counseling, get over it, get on with it and get out of here. That’s where he was three Jesus.
And so I can safely say he did not have any empathy
JimBo Stewart: No, not at all. man, I’m trying to think there’s a, there’s a comedian from a while ago. There’s a skit that he had on Saturday night live about that. We’re here in council and he would listen to people and he’d go, just stop. Just [00:08:00]
Bob Bickford: yes.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah.
I, I think empathy goes a long way. According to Oxford dictionary, empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
I’ve heard one guy say it’s, it’s really being able to live in somebody else’s skin for a minute and just understand what it, what it feels like to be that person, according to Carl Rogers, Empathy is to perceive the internal frame of reference of another person with accuracy and with emotional components and meanings that pertain there too, as if one were the person, but without losing the, as if condition.
our writer of this article administry magazine that I got that from says, in other words, to show. Empathy toward another individual or group means to imagine what it would be like to be that person or group a one should do so in moderation without losing the sense of one’s own self in [00:09:00]another.
and so I pulled up that article and a few other articles that, that clarify a little bit in a ministry context. Empathy is, Scott McKnight is, did write an article about this with Christianity today, where he talks about the kind of contention that some people have on empathy as a virtue for leaders.
And one of things he says is we have to make a distinction between compassion and empathy, that they’re not exactly the same thing. And sometimes we can fuse those compassion is the broader word, referring to both an understanding of another’s pain and the desire to somehow mitigate that pain. Empathy refers to the ability to relate to another person’s pain vicariously as if one has experienced the pain themselves.
I didn’t think about the opposite of empathy maybe would be, like your buddy with the three GS of counseling or, job’s buddies, you know, and, or job’s wife, you know, just curse God and die, or [00:10:00] obviously this is your fault. I remember I took a class in seminary called, Grief death and dying or something really ominous like that.
and in that class that they taught us with, they called the ministry of presence. And this really was the thing I pulled away from that class more than anything. They said that when, when people are going through grief or difficult times, we have a tendency, especially as leaders to try to fix things, we want to be fixed.
when really we have the holy spirit within us, who is the great counselor. And one of the best things we can do sometimes is just sit with people, right. And just be there. Because if, if, if I’m sitting with you during a hard time and I have the holy spirit in me, and you have the holy spirit in you, and just the presence of that, holy spirit can be ministry to your heart, into your soul.
and then beyond that, just saying, Hey, That must be really hard. what you’re going through right now, and I get that and I don’t have to experience exactly the same thing as you, but just acknowledging that it’s hard. And so when we apply that to replanting and [00:11:00] revitalization, I think as pastors, we have to acknowledge what we’re asking members and what we’re leading members of a dying church to do is really hard.
And emotional and painful, and stretching. And I mean, I think it would be, I think we’d be remiss to, to not exercise empathy in our leadership.
Bob Bickford: Yeah, you’re totally right. And if, if I can, I’d like to rewind just a little bit to talk about how each of us approach this idea of being empathetic or, or, demonstrating empathy. So one of the things that, that we often don’t realize. And I don’t want to be real, super psychological here. Right? I don’t, I’ve taken some psychology classes, I’ve done some reading, you know, pastoring counseling, that sort of thing.
JimBo Stewart: Holiday Inn express.
Bob Bickford: me at our home of origin stuff [00:12:00] really impacts the way we relate to other people. So for instance, Jimbo. If you’re a kid and you got upset at school and you came home and let’s say, you told one of your parents and their response was to, well, if you didn’t do this, this and this, then that wouldn’t have happened.
Right. So that’s not an empathetic response. That’s an instructive response, right? Let’s say you get injured, right. And you fall down and you get a pretty big cut or scrape on her leg or something. And you run inside. There’s blood and you know, you’re crying and let’s say one of your parents then just freaks out.
Like they can’t handle it, they just get emotional. Right. And they just they’re they’re, they’re struggling with that. Those two instances as a young person growing up, you’re experiencing people’s response to pay. So that in prince, on you. Right. And what it does is basically if you realize, if, if you do well, if you [00:13:00] grew up in a home where every time you’re upset or frustrated about something, it’s somehow your fault, right.
Then you’ll realize, well, I’m never going to be at fault, or I’m never going to be upset, or I’m only going to respond to people. And the way that I’ve been responded to, right. I’ll be instructed. Well, if you hadn’t done those four things, then you wouldn’t be here. Right? So a re planter who has that home of origin issue might run in to say, well, if you guys hadn’t fired the last pastor, and if you, didn’t resist singing new songs, and if you actually cared about people in the community and wanted to reach out to them, then you guys wouldn’t be in this really crappy place.
But that’s home of origin kinds of stuff. And sometimes we don’t sit with that long enough and realize how we approach a topic like empathy. So combine that with a high D personality and a person who’s more visionary than shepherd on that continuum. Visionary shepherd. You’re going to find a person, a pastor, a re [00:14:00] planter, a planter that struggled.
In even setting in somebody else’s position, walking in their shoes, trying to understand whatever you like for their skin. So what I want to say is, is I think we’re going to hit on some really key highlights. For people to understand how do you develop empathy? What is Bible say about it? How do you, what are some characteristics of it?
But I would say even before we get there, you probably need to spend some time reflecting on when you were growing up. What kind of comfort did you receive when you encountered something that was paying. Right. It’s emotional, physical, that sort of thing, because I think that’ll be helpful for you because some of what we might suggest would seem completely foreign to you otherwise.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah.
I think when we look at home of origin and the psychological stuff, one of the reasons people give pushback to that is they feel like people use that stuff as an excuse for their behavior. my wife [00:15:00] Audria and I have have said it like this, we think it’s, we’ve encouraged. To see Christian counselors to unpack that stuff, to help explain, but not excuse
how, why they behave like so why you respond to that?
There’s a reason that you respond to things in a way that you respond to things. And it is actually very helpful to have an explanation for that. And understanding of that, it just gives you clarity in your head to be able to start shifting to a better response than what your natural response is. but the worst thing you could do is explore those things from your childhood, from your past, from your upbringing, and just use that as an excuse.
And so I think that’s the pushback. And so I would just say, yes, explore those things. We at the bootcamp are a big proponent. Of good Christian counseling that helps explain the why, the reason you respond to things the way you do. So that is part of your sanctification [00:16:00] and spiritual maturing process to become more like Christ.
in regards to empathy and a scriptural basis for empathy, I think the clearest passage is probably. Romans 12, 15, rejoice with those who rejoice mourn with those who mourn. I mean, that’s, that is what empathy is, right? It’s to say you’re rejoicing. And so I’m going to rejoice with you your morning.
I’m going to mourn with you, but I think we see it evidenced in the life of Christ in, uh, I put down a lot of verses. I’m not going to read them all. there’s a word, spun kids. Boy, I can’t say it. but there’s a splash. Y a S P L a N C H N I Z O M a. I is a Greek word, often used to describe Jesus, being [00:17:00] moved with emotion and pity for someone in pain in which Jesus responds with. This is important understanding and actually. And so here’s some references of that word. mark 1 41, he’s moved with pity, moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched the leper, saying to him, I do choose be made clean.
And so he, he understands he’s moved with pity and then he moves with action mark, 6 30, 4, as he went ashore, he saw a great crowd and he had. Compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd and began to teach them many things he saw. So he had that, he had the word there’s translated compassion, but it’s the word I’m not going to try to pronounce for you?
Bob Bickford: I can try it. I had Greek and seminary connection.
JimBo Stewart: yeah, yeah, go for it.
Bob Bickford: I think it maybe, I don’t know, we could be corrected by, you know, double doc or somebody else, but I would say it is[00:18:00]
JimBo Stewart: Okay.
Bob Bickford: it’s an OMI verb. It’s a me verb in, in Greek.
JimBo Stewart: had Greek in seminary. I just don’t remember much of it. it was not what I was good at.
mark 9 22 has this word. It is, it has often cast them into the fire and under the water to destroy him talking about a demon possessed person. But if you are able to do anything, have pity on us and help us, Luke 10 33, but a Samaritan while traveling came near him.
And when he saw him, he was moved with pity. Here’s my point that, that. Doesn’t just mean pity or compassion. It means being moved with emotion and, and petty for somebody in pain. It’s, it’s understanding somebody’s having pain and it moving you, it, it, it. It changing your emotions because of what they’re going through.
And what we see with Jesus is that it’s understanding, [00:19:00] and action. And so as we talk about empathy, I don’t want to just talk about going, Hey man, that’s. And that’s it, right? It’s, there’s understanding and there’s action of service. And so, so I’ve listed out five key characteristics that I think ways that we can kind of further dive into the idea of empathy a little bit here in our last few minutes, to sit with someone with empathy is one to be fully.
With them, right. To not be looking at your phone or not be talking to somebody, but really present with them too, is active listening. You’re listening well, doing active, listening to them as they’re sharing to suspend judgment. this is not saying this is where people struggle with empathy a little bit.
This is not saying, that we don’t call sin in. but that we sit with the. In the pain for a moment. And as we work through that, we, and then compassionate understanding and proactive caring. That’s who it, that’s where the understanding moves to action.
Bob Bickford: It’s a powerful list. And, uh, you know, as I’m [00:20:00] thinking about my own, just empathetic response or lack of empathetic response, it’s convicting to think about that list. Fully present. I think mostly I’m I can do that one pretty well active listening. I think I can do that pretty well, but here’s the hurdle for me suspending judgment.
Right? Like I just mean this was a struggling with like, if, well, if you, if you wouldn’t be that way, like. You wouldn’t feel this way. Right? I mean, and that’s the hard part of, and that judgment, you know, and this is the thing I’ve heard this, you’ve probably heard this said, in a church circle or church family before.
Well, you know, Jesus said we’re not supposed to judge one another judge, not lest ye be judged. Well, in essence, he’s saying what the word there is. When we go back to the Greek word for judgment is to render a final judge. Right. It’s not to judge the situation or the circumstances not to evaluate it, not [00:21:00] to look at it, but it’s to, to have the gavel in your hand and to hammer down a final verdict that says, this is the way it is.
Right. And what we see as scripture tells us only the Lord has that authority to say, this is the way it is to render the final judgment. So suspending judgment is to say, you know what? I may not have all the facts here. I may not know, the background, I may not know what their emotions are or hurts or pains they’re bringing into this.
I may not know why this was hard for them or important for them. You know, those are, those are things that we could suspend judges. I think one of the things we often do is when we, and we see this in our culture all the time, when somebody does something, we perceive it from how we would receive it or do it.
And if it’s different than those two categories, we’re probably not. err, on the side of judging them because they’re not like us in the exact same, that’s the exact thing that we’re talking about. Don’t it is difficult. And the Lord asks us not to [00:22:00] do that.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, I think this has been the judgment part is where people that may want to push back against this would probably push back of, that idea of like, look we can’t overlook sin. And that’s where I just wanna clarify. I’m not saying overlook sin.
Bob Bickford: Yeah, totally.
JimBo Stewart: and that’s when we moved to compassionate understanding and proactive caring, that’s lived out largely through discipleship, right?
I mean it’s through service and mercy and care. but if it’s someone you have pastoral authority and responsibility for, and their pain is being caused by their own sinful choices, then proactive, caring. Is a process of discipleship, right. helping them grow. But here’s the deal. If all you do is beat them up about their sin.
It’s not discipleship there’s therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ, Jesus, there are still consequences. And we need to be clear about those consequences and we need to be clear about sin is sin. but there’s something powerful. Just not being shocked. [00:23:00] I mean, most of my ministry experience has been an inner city, low income, high crime settings.
And so one of the things I’ve learned is. If I want to impact people’s lives, who are in those settings and have done and, or are doing agregious things. The men, I have to suspend judgment in the sense of like, I can’t be blown away whenever they tell me, oh, I sell drugs or I’ve killed people, or I’ve done these things.
Or I like prostitutes like that. I’ve done ministry amongst all those groups of people and in what I need, what they need from me is to hear that. And then. Get shocked and just say, man, the grace of Jesus is sufficient for that. And so I’m not here to judge you for that. Now I, I’m not going to as your pastor, just sit by and let that just happen.
We’re going to talk through, what does it look like to submit that area of, of your life to Christ, but we’re also going to figure out, like what led to you doing that, talking [00:24:00] about that home of origin or those people like, like what led to those decisions? How did we get to this point? That you just, you decided selling drugs is what you needed to do or whatever it is, you know, and maybe we dealing with lesser or greater things than that.
but I suspending judgment and then go on. So how did we get here? Something led to that, right. And let’s understand that. And let’s take that and understand it and get explanation. And let’s submit that to Jesus. and let’s let the grace of Jesus be sufficient for us. In that and knowing if there is therefore now no condemnation, which is why I can suspend judgment, while also giving pastoral authority in discipleship, and correction and rebuke, and like the scripture teaches us to.
Bob Bickford: Yeah. I think real clear a hundred percent. I I’m thankful that you clarify, we’re not talking about. Not speaking clearly and biblically about sin as it’s expressed in the scriptures. It’s not what we’re talking about. Cause we do that as pastors. And what if we get away from [00:25:00] that? W we’re not being faithful to what God has called us to do, but judgment is, is that final verdict of saying, yeah, it’s over for you.
I’m sorry. Like, you know, get on out of here kind of thing. Or that’s where they, and this is where the gospel is really awesome. And. Right. And Jesus in his band of followers and the way he forgave people, you know, think of the woman who was caught in adultery. You know, they just brought her there. They didn’t bring the dude.
Right. Jesus just didn’t give her the recorded response that we have from Jesus was not this long lecture. You know, where’s your true loves, wait, rain where, you know, where’s your committed to purity, you know, all that kind of stuff. He just. Yeah. Oh gosh. He just said go and sin no more. Right. Okay. And man, the world that we live in and the context and the communities in which churches [00:26:00] that are needing to be replanted and revitalized, I need to hear that right.
That in essence Christ has taken on our judges. And suspended it for us. And so as pastors of the gospel and as people of the gospel, it’s important for us to practice empathy in that way. Let’s go and be messy. It’s going to be hard. Um, especially cause a lot of the dysfunctional churches and the dying churches, they’re really good at keeping rules.
So you’ve got a lot of good people exempt. You got a lot of people who exhibit good behavior, but not gospel behavior and gospel acts.
JimBo Stewart: Absolutely guys. That’s the end of our time. We’d love to talk about this more. I think we will dive into this more as we, plan on discussing the emotional cycle of change And a future episode. just a couple more weeks. So we’ll be in new Orleans. If you’re gonna be there with us, man, shoot us a note and let us know.
We’d love to make sure we connect with our bootcamp listeners, especially while we’re there in new Orleans. So I know we’ve got a few of those, registered for the event. It is sold out. we’re super excited about all that coming up and a lot of other great, [00:27:00] exciting things coming ahead. thanks for listening as always.
And, man, feel free to share this And