We go through our days relating to people through our biases and filters without taking the time to get to know people. Often times it's because there is not enough time to get to know everyone but that doesn't absolve us from general compassion toward all of mankind. We are to be clothed with compassion. When someone looks at you do they see compassion just a clearly as they see the shirt you're wearing? It's time for the body of Christ to lead with love and not be so easily offended.
When someone wrongs or offends you, can you put yourself in their shoes?
Seeking to understand people when we're hurting is close to impossible but incredibly freeing if successful. Finding forgiveness and even compassion for those who hurt and disappoint us leaves us in a place of unshakable peace beyond the circumstance.
Putting yourself in someone else's shoes comes with some rules. For starters, it doesn't mean you're excusing or approving of their behavior. Secondly, you don't get to judge the person. And you must establish healthy boundaries as you move forward.
I've sat with people in counseling that refuse to forgive others because to them it feels like the person that hurt them is getting away with something. If you allow people's actions from the past to continue to cause you pain, the only thing you're allowing is the other person to still cause you pain. You have a choice. Forgiveness is simply the process of choosing to let go of the issue, no matter how painful, and make a decision to not hold on to it any longer. Essentially you send it far away from you, never to return to your emotional inner world.
This can be a tricky one. We want to empathize with people and understand them but we cannot judge them. Judgment is when we determine people's motives without communication. Putting yourself in someone else's shoes doesn't mean you say "this is what I would do if I were them" or "if that were me and I did that it would be because of this." You don't know their motives, you don't know what's driving their behavior, the only way to find out is to ask questions...communicate.
If you cannot communicate with the person for whatever reason, you can only forgive and move on, you may not get the closure you're seeking. But if you can communicate, ask questions and be honest about your feelings without assuming why they did what they did.
Don't be a doormat, don't close yourself off and by all means don't enable codependency. Even if you find forgiveness in your heart toward someone it doesn't mean you have to stay close to them, it may be best to create distance. If you're the kind of person that wants to help everyone you must be wise to not let your compassion override wisdom.
Regarding enabling codependency...oh boy, this is a big one. Healthy boundaries are paradoxical. There is a point where helping someone too much begins to hurt them. Be careful not to do for others what the can and should do for themselves. You should be the one who knows where that line is but often times we're the last people to see that line. Our genuine compassion for someone may turn into fear if they don't change their lives.
A TEST FOR CODEPENDENCY
Here's a good test for yourself to help you know where the healthy boundary is when helping someone. If you're continuing to help someone because you're afraid of what they may do if you stop helping them, you're probably too close to the situation. When you help them, do they continue the harmful behavior? They probably don't really want to get better, they're just using you to get their needs met and you're actually enabling the behavior. Stop paying for people to misbehave!
Our mandate as Jesus followers is to lay our lives down to show love toward people, even to the point of death. However, we lay our lives down to bring them to Jesus, once you bring them to Jesus, trust the Holy Spirit from there. If they don't walk the path with Jesus for themselves, you can't walk it for them.
Above all...love, it's how we'll reach the world. I pray that the body of Christ becomes the safest and most honest place on the planet. I pray that we are able to help people but challenge them to engage in transformation. I pray that our love inspires action within people, action toward God and a more healthy life for themselves and their loved ones. I pray that a compassion rises up in God's people to walk in kindness and mercy toward the world but can unashamedly call people up into righteousness and wisdom. I pray we, as believers, glorify God by allowing Christ live and love through us.
Life Group Discussion Questions
- What did you get out of this message
- What can you immediately apply
- Does this cause fear in you for any of your relationships (regarding the people you're corrently helping). If so, how will you process that fear?
- Are you willing to put yourself in other people's shoes that may have hurt you, to understand how they may be hurting?