Seeing Through Another Lens

I’m learning it starts with listening and empathy.

I’m writing to my white, conservative, Christian friends. Let’s listen. Let’s learn. If we want to make a difference when it comes racism—I do, and I hope you do—we need to listen. That may mean listening to a black friend, if they are willing to talk.

At the very least it means listening to a book, an article, a podcast, a video by someone who has experienced America differently than you and me. (And yes, there are people like that.)

Listening allows us to see life through someone else’s lens. It’s a bridge to empathy. Empathy means we put ourselves in their shoes, recognize their experiences and emotions, and communicate that we now see and hear them. And all this without the dreaded judgment of “but!

Listening is a bridge to empathy. Empathy means we put ourselves in their shoes, recognize their experiences and emotions, and communicate that we now see and hear them.

How often are you tempted to shout, “BUT!“? Or maybe “Wait!” “Hold on!” “This!” “That!” I get it. But when I grasp for all the verbal ammo I can to mount a defensive, it’s impossible to listen. And that makes it impossible to identify with someone’s pain. It reveals I’d rather be right than get it right.

We can’t afford to do that here.

As Christians, who have the Spirit of God in us, we have the power to do it. It’s not impossible to listen and empathize. In fact, it’s at the core of what God call us to be and do, by his grace. “In humility count others more important than yourselves, not looking to your own interests but the interests of others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 2:3-5).

There’s only one way to do this: listen and empathize.