Along our leadership journey we have yet to tackle this issue. A good starting point for us today is to examine the appropriate times when sympathy may be used. Of course we find our self in these situations when others see us as one who truly listens. We have discovered that by segregating our mind in preparation for listening that we become more effective. In so doing though we are tempted as the conversation progresses. We are tempted to offer opinions based on our own frame of reference.
Before we research the methods by which we can avoid using our own frame of reference let us consider a procedure which might help us get started. These procedures are quite helpful in giving us control over our tendencies. In this case we should remember that sympathy is best used when applied to others' ideas and aspirations. Let us examine a routine occurrence of this situation. Imagine the last time a loved one was having difficulty in determining the proper career path or field of study. In this case we are met with aspiration. It is certainly appropriate for us to offer unbridled sympathy here. An appropriate response could take this form, "I don't blame you at all for feeling the way you do. You are faced with a very difficult decision." In this we have avoided the temptation to direct or advise. There is no place for these in sympathy.
Bishop Kallistos Ware has said that, "If we find people boring and tediously predictable, that is because we have not broken through to the level of true personhood, in others and in ourselves, where there are no stereotypes but each is unique." We may find this applicable at present, for it is the common mistake in our example above for us to offer opinion based on our own perspective. We are all unique. If we respond from our own view then we cannot connect with our companion. Imagine the temptation to start a response like this, "When I was facing that situation I did this or that...." or "Based on my experience you should do this or that...." By responding in this manner we alienate our acquaintance. We unintentionally shift the conversation to revolve around our own self. By doing so we have nullified any act of sympathy intended. We must know to fervently guard then against our own self, even in sympathy.
Copyright © Robert Clinton Chedester 2013