“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” – Proverbs 16:24 (TNIV)

Thanks for reading the six previous posts about Empathy (Introduction, Empathy #1, Empathy #2, Empathy #3, Empathy #4 and Empathy #5).

In what will in all likelihood be the final post on Empathy in this series, I wish to provide a brief recap of what has been discovered and talked about in the previous posts before making some final comments. From the previous posts, we discovered…

  1. Empathy (Introduction): We discovered that Empathy is one of the kindest and most profound expressions of care that a human being could render to another person. We also discovered there are important characteristics and actions associated with Empathy that facilitate deeper, meaningful and spiritual experiences with your spouse or partner. We looked at how delivering an empathetic response to another at the right time, for the right reason, in the right tone with the right words is therapeutic and will go a long way toward bringing healing to any situation where one or both people may feel psychologically bruised or injured.
  2. Empathy #1: Visit The Gallery Of The Heart: Empathy is likened to being invited into one of the most prestigious art galleries in the world, which is located in the mind and heart of your spouse, friend or partner. We discussed that creating Empathy involves employing a patient, deliberate and mindful communication process, where you are able to “view the pictures” that are important to your spouse that are “on the walls of his or her heart.” This observation process helps us to not only notice the valuable thoughts and feelings of our spouse, but it also helps us to understand what is most important to our spouse at that specific time/moment.
  3. Empathy #2: Your Heart Is Safe With Me: In this post, we learned that Empathy and safety are facilitated when we demonstrate compassion with our spoken words, tender touches and just as important, by providing a listening and empathetic ear that strives to understand the “visceral emotions” of our spouse. We also learned that since Empathy affords us the opportunity to touch the inner parts or organs of another person, then our touch needs to reflect great care and skillful attention, because whoever is touched by us need our help and our touch or the way we respond will determine if our spouse will either feel greater pain, or, will begin to heal. Empathy prompts us to demonstrate compassion when others are feeling hurt, pain, anger, sadness, depressed, shamed, guilty or fear. In short, their heart needs to be safe with us.
  4. Empathy #3: Help Me To Understand: This post helped us realize that a critical process and outcome of Empathy is Understanding the thoughts and feelings of our spouse, and the process is likened to assembling a puzzle with her so that you “begin to see the picture” and subsequently understanding what your spouse wants you to see. We learned that Understanding only occurs and is achieved when the two of you work together to assemble the pieces; if you work alone, it is great insight, but if you work together, Understanding is possible. Going forward, both of you will be better served when you patiently look at and “grasp” the issue, discuss and work on it together and think creativity and outside of the box in order to eventually hear the puzzle piece “click” into place, symbolizing the feelings of being understood.
  5. Empathy #4: Do You Care About Me?: In this post we discovered that creating a “corrective emotional experience” has a better chance to develop when we create a calm and safe environment with our spouse, so that the right side of her brain has a chance to experience a reduction in fear, anxiety, pain or hurt. When this occurs, she (or he) will be more open to receiving and talking about the “rational and logical” insights and solutions that more than likely you wish to convey to her. Again, behaviors such as touch, compassion, closeness, warm hugs and tight embraces all facilitate opportunities that ground and connect your partner within their self and eventually with you.
  6. Empathy #5: The Ingredients Of Empathy: In this post, we looked at specific “ingredients” and their definitions that comprise Empathetic experiences and responses. Key words and their application such as Compassion, Safety, Mercy, Touch, Understanding, Patience, Grace and Collaboration were identified as necessary “change agents” to create different but positive and flavorful outcomes as you labor to create positive, edifying and empathetic experiences with your spouse.

Which brings us back to this latest post in the series. Simply put, if you engage in the practice of any of the information in the six posts referenced above (and I do hope you take time to re-read them), then you are not only cultivating Empathy but you are also providing Honor to your spouse.

Honor, as depicted in the photo above, means that you are giving something very, very valuable to your spouse. Honor is actually one of the 10 characteristics of Agape Love (Love, Esteem, Cherish, Respect, Favor, Honor, Acceptance, Prize, Relish and Devotion) and what makes this word so valuable is just that: It means conveying value and worth to another person because of who they are, and that you wish to impress upon them, treat them and “weigh them down” with empathetic responses that channel value, worth, distinction and respect so that they literally feel rich and wealthy because of the actions that you bestow upon and deliver to them.

But this is where the scales of balance come in. Demonstrating Empathy means we provide to our spouse time and attention wherein we engage in a process of being present with them non-verbally, while equally engaging in verbal communication in order to understand their innermost thoughts and feelings.

Both expressions of Empathy are very valuable and tend to be necessary “ingredients” for us to use as we endeavor to become skilled at delivering Empathy.  Along with this, know that a hallmark of your growth in this area means you are developing the discernment regarding when and how to apply all of these “tools and ingredients” at the right time to create the wanted (versus unwanted) outcome in your relationship.

“The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out” – Proverbs 18:15

As we attempt to practice and become proficient with these principles, this means we balance…

  • …Listening carefully and attentively to what is said while we also use open-ended questions to gain more information that helps us to correctly understand the experience of our spouse.
  • …Trying to pick up on non-verbal communication cues while we also make every effort to remain introspective and in charge of regulating our own “emotional thermostat.”
  • Becoming skilled at identifying and reporting emotions during a conflict with our spouse while we also engage in behavior that creates safety (versus intimation) so that we could work with them to understand then move toward resolving the conflict.
  • …Being merciful, kind, gentle and good without ceasing while we also accept personal responsibility to clean up and repair “our side of the street.”
  • …Trying to assemble all the puzzle pieces of an issue together to make sense of them while we also offer feedback and suggestions at the right time that may bring remedy and resolution to the matter(s).
  • …Trying to get to the heart of the matter in every talk while we also invite our spouse to engage in brainstorming solutions regarding what will remove roadblocks.
  • …Communicating our regret regarding any pain we may have caused while also asking what is the most helpful act we could provide.

All of these behaviors are necessary to facilitate Empathy and Empathetic responses and when we become all the more skilled at delivering them to our spouse, partner or friend, then we are communicating to them how much we care about their heart, how valuable they are to us and how much we love them, as evidenced in your ability to Honor them.

As you’ve heard me say before, try to make progress with the delivery of these and other behaviors that facilitate Empathy, but don’t expect perfection!

Thank you again for being willing to take this journey with me to discover what Empathy is and how to effectively grow it and to deliver it. I hope this posts have been helpful to you and know that future posts on Empathy will re-continue with “Empathy #7,” “Empathy #8” and so on.

Also, thanks for visiting and please visit the other blogs written by Dr Ken McGill: Daily Bread for Life and “3 – 2 – 5 – 4 – 24″ for additional information that could be helpful. I welcome your comments below or via email and your favorites, your retweets and your “+1’s” if you have a brief moment and find the information helpful. Again, it is my desire to provide the very best info for your consideration.

Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. Thank you for the vital information, Dr. Ken. I received knowledge of how to use specialized tools that I did not possess before reading this series. It reminds me that I need certain skills and tools for specific and delicate tasks. If I use a hammer to work on an intricate and expensive watch, I will likely break the watch. But if I use the recommended tools specific for the task (such as these you have explained), I have a much better chance of mending the delicate instrumentation inside the watch, and not causing further damage. And so it is with the heart of another person.
    Your insight and wisdom are very much appreciated!

    Reply

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About Dr Ken McGill

Dr. Ken McGill is an ordained minister and has been involved in counseling for more than 25 years. Dr. McGill holds a Bachelor's degree in Religion from Pacific Christian College (now Hope International University), a Certificate of Completion in the Alcohol and Drug Studies/Counseling Program from the University of California at Los Angeles and a Masters degree in Clinical Psychology from Antioch University. Dr. McGill received his Doctorate in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis in Family Psychology from Azusa Pacific University in May, 2003. Dr. McGill's dissertation focused on the development of an integrated treatment program for the sexually addicted homeless population, and Ken was "personally mentored" by dissertation committee member Dr. Patrick Carnes, a pioneer in the field of sex addiction work. Dr. McGill authored a chapter in the text The Clinical Management of Sex Addiction, with his chapter addressing the homeless and sex addiction. Dr. McGill is also a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in the States of Texas and California and Mississippi, and is a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist, through the International Institute for Trauma and Addictive Professionals (IITAP). Dr. McGill had a private practice in Glendora, CA (Aspen Counseling Center), Inglewood, CA (Faithful Central Bible Church), and Hattiesburg, MS (River of Life Church), specializing in the following areas with individuals, couples, families, groups and psychoeducational training: addictions and recovery, pre-marital, marital and family counseling, issues related to traumatization and abuse, as well as depression, grief, loss, anger management and men's and women's issues. Dr. McGill also provided psychotherapeutic treatment with Student-Athletes on the University of Southern Mississippi Football and Men's Basketball teams. Dr. McGill served as the Director of the Gentle Path Program, which is a seven-week residential program, for people who are challenged with sexual addiction, sexual anorexia, and relationship issues. Dr. McGill also supervised Doctoral students in the Southern Mississippi Psychology Internship Consortium with the University of Southern Mississippi. Dr. McGill was inducted into the Azusa Pacific University Academic Hall of Honor, School of Behavioral and Applied Sciences, in October, 2010. Dr. McGill currently works as a Private practice clinician with an office in Plano, Texas, providing treatment with people who are challenged in the areas mentioned above.

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Daily Bread for Addressing Compulsion