Be-Attitudes for Teachers: A Devotional for Sunday School & Other Bible Teachers

Be Empathetic

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. (2 Cor. 1:3-4)

The Need for Empathizing

People have many issues or concerns that could become obstacles to further learning because they can't seem to get beyond where they are. By being an empathetic teacher, you can help bring them out of their protective shell. You can provide them with motivation to learn again.
 
Sometimes all people need is to be heard - truly heard. They want to know that somebody understands and cares. Their issue may have become a mountain in their eyes only because no one would acknowledge their opinion or concern. Often, in problem situations, they know what they must do. They don't need a lecture. Nor do they need to be drilled. They just need to know they are not alone. Feeling understood frequently fuels people to take the next step. They are no longer lost in the sea of isolation.

The Way to Empathize

To be empathetic requires that you truly listen to what a person says. You should be able to not just parrot back what has been said but to accurately paraphrase it. You should be able to grab hold of the intent and emotion behind it. As you listen, watch their body language and hear not only their words but also the tone of their voice. Take it all in to get the complete picture of what they are trying to say. This takes concentration and attentiveness.
 
When we fail to listen actively, we run the risk of jumping to conclusions of what we thought they meant. Proverbs 18:13 says "He who answers before listening - that is his folly and his shame." When we misinterpret what a person is saying because we are not listening attentively, our response may be hurtful or offensive. Click here for help on developing your listening skills.
 
Empathy also requires that you remember what you have been through. You may not have experienced the same exact situation but you probably have experienced a comparable need of the heart that goes along with their situation. As such you have known God's comfort and grace and that is the plane on which you can relate even if you have not gone through the same circumstances. ". . . comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God" (2 Cor. 1:3-4).

The Opportunities to Empathize

Teachers have many opportunities to extend God's grace to others by empathizing with them. You can make yourself available to counsel students but the spontaneous moments will have more impact than you realize. Use time before and after class. When working on projects, go alongside of individuals. Use transitional times between activities when someone has finished before the others. Pay attention to how you respond to their questions and comments during discussion times. One-liners of accurate empathy in response to their comments may be all they need to hear.

The Result of Being Empathetic

God wants to use you to touch the lives of your students. Being an empathetic teacher will open the doors of their hearts to hear what else you have to say.

Read More about Empathy:

APPLICATION:

For Teachers: Recount God helping you through tough issues or problems. What was your greatest need at the time? How can you use that experience to help others?

For Leaders: What opportunities might you have to exercise empathy with your staff?

For Group Use: After the devotional, break into pairs to share how God helped them work through a tough issue/problem. The listening partner should exercise accurate empathy in paraphrasing back what was said.

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(Last updated 10/01/17)

Benefit from more of these devotionals for Bible Teachers:

Be-Attitudes for Teachers
Be-Attitudes
for Teachers