Empathy can be exhausting; caring endlessly about the feelings of others can leave us feeling drained and swallowed up. The only way our culture can counteract these concerns about empathy is to talk about boundaries, and the need to know how to have appropriate ones with others. This value of empathy has no foundation of its own to stand on, no moral ground for why we should have empathy for one another. When the good gift of empathy is seen as an end in itself, we miss the Giver of the good gift.
Empathy is being talked about a lot in our culture right now. It is simply defined as the ability to understand and share in the feelings of others. This sounds like a good thing, yet as Christians, how do we think biblically about empathy and the amount of emphasis on it?
As our already individualistic society becomes even more disconnected, empathy seems like a good answer to our culture’s problems. The value placed on empathy can be seen as an expression of God’s common grace: that people see a benefit to caring for the feelings and experiences of others and want to grow in that.
Yet as good as empathy is, it has limits.