Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.—ROMANS 12:15 (NKJV)
Although Mom liked her new apartment in the assisted living complex, she complained about every little thing. They overcooked the broccoli. The managers were never around when you needed them. Her tablemates didn’t speak up, even though they knew she was hard of hearing.
I tried to convince Mom to see these issues from others’ points of view. But the more I reasoned, the more frequent her complaints grew. I was weary. Mom was frustrated. Lord, help me understand Mom better, I prayed. My idea isn’t working. I need one of yours.
A few weeks later, our caregivers’ support group leader showed a cartoon: Turtle had fallen into a pit. His friend, Bear, shouted worn-out clichés to him from above, trying to help, but Turtle sank lower in despair. But when Bear climbed into the pit and just sat beside his friend, saying how sorry he was for this dilemma, Turtle brightened. Together they found a way out.
There was my answer—empathy. Mom didn’t need advice or explanations. She needed me to identify with her feelings. If I could show her I understood, perhaps she’d be a bit happier, even if the situation never changed.
Next time Mom whined about broccoli or insensitive people, I said, “That is so hard for you. I’d be frustrated too.” She nodded, a sad look in her eyes. I wasn’t surprised when she changed the subject, smiling once again. God’s idea worked.