PANDEMIC PROGNOSIS

Last Sunday we were challenged in church to look back at how we have used this period of pandemic – whether we had used it wisely or squandered it foolishly.

True wisdom lies in being able to recognize the times and seasons we live in, then adapt to it accordingly. An unprecedented worldwide phenomenon such as covid, be it man-made or natural, incidental or accidental, induced or spontaneous, can and should alter our lives. Nothing comes even close to this universal event, except maybe the world wars of last century, which most of us in this century have no idea about.

Such a massive happening will and should produce an realigning, but whether that change is for the good and better or bad and worse, is our choice.

A checklist to see what alteration and adaptation pandemic lockdown should have birthed in us/our lives:

1. In the light of so many deaths, have I/we become more considerate and compassionate of others? Pandemic should have taught us the value of human lives and how quickly people can pass out of our lives, without even a warning. If I haven’t learnt to treat others better, then I have wasted this season.

2. In the wake of so many losses the world as a whole incurred, have I/we learnt what is of value and what is not? Everything became meaningless and pointless when one was isolated and alone in a hospital bed or room. The greatest commodity, if we may term it so, the most valuable of all things, is human life. Living things, especially humans, are the most indispensable and fundamental part of this world. Once lost, their absence will produce irrevocable and irrecoverable impacts and effects.

3. In the aftermath of the disease, have I/we learnt the efficacy and importance of building community consciousness? It was those who had built a network of associations who survived and sustained as the illness raged, felling all equally. Rich or poor, educated or illiterate, upper class or low class, single or married, young or old, whatever the estate, we all were susceptible to the onslaught of the infirmity. Relationships and friendships became key to maintaining sanity and humanity. To know someone cares was enough to stem the despair that flooded us when we were sick.

4. In the affect of such sweeping malady, have I/we learnt to value time? We have seen that money, possessions, lands and gold cannot compensate for time lost, especially occasions lost in spending with loved ones. Time is one thing that cannot be recovered or restored, and so, I hope we have all learnt to conserve time and to use it well, for the right and appropriate things.

5. In the wake of so many lost lives, have I/we priortised spending time with loved ones? Bible declares that the life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more, Psa 103:16 NIV. The truth of this statement was demonstrated and made evident in these 2 years. After seeing people pass away in an a moment, we need to seek and make time with loved ones. Just as lost time cannot be recovered, lost souls cannot be recovered nor lost opportunities to be with those we love, regained. Let’s not go back to our old trends but form new ones that focus on people.

6. In the recovery period of the malady, have I/We understood the importance of physical and in-person interactive exchange? Meeting in person and face to face cannot be replaced by virtual connect or face time or skype/zoom calls. Nothing can ever replace the exchange that takes place physically, for such an exchange uplifts us unconsciously in physical meeting. Let’s not become so used to isolation that we lose out on physical interaction.

7. In view of an infirmity of this magnitude, have I/We developed a new lifestyle, one that focuses on healthy living? The old adage that when health is lost something is lost has been sufficiently proved and I think we would be foolish not to take stock of our health. We need to reassess and set in place healthy habits and appropriate dietary practices so that we build bodily stamina as well as mental resistance. Emotional and mental stability depend so much physical well-being and hence, let us develop healthy bodies for fit minds.

8. Last but not least, have I/We learnt to put our trust in God and given time for prayer and meditation? If this pandemic has proved one thing, it is that man cannot control many things in life. When everything failed, it was only the faith in a Supreme Being, Whose power surpassed us, that kept us going. It gave us hope that things will turn around and helped us to hold on, inspite of massive despair. As the song goes, There can be miracles When you believe. Though hope is frail, it’s hard to kill. Who knows what miracles you can achieve? When you believe, somehow you will. You will when you believe. If we have failed in this, we will fail in all else!

It is imperative and important to do a pandemic prognosis so that we can correct what we need to when we can.

Covid was just a warning shot across our bows to take stock.

Have we heeded the warning and set in place the right life choices and ways?

Has pandemic shocked us to our senses?

*Pic courtesy Google images

COMPASSION, THE ESSENTIAL INGREDIENT NEEDED FOR THE HOUR

In a recent conversation with a co-worker, I was taken aback to know that he thought of himself as being emotional in his orientation. A very down-to-earth, practical person, I have always thought of him as one who was full of of rich emotions rather than being an emotional person, a vast difference between the two. He was pleasantly surprised and so, as a counsellor, I went on to explain about empathy and sympathy.

Empathy and sympathy are words that many use interchangeably, since they are near cousins, but truly differ vastly from one another. In every field and aspect related to human care, such as the medical field or allied professions, empathy is touted over sympathy as being the needed emotion. Why is this so?

According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary: Sympathy, constructed from the Greek sym, meaning “together,” and pathos, referring to feelings or emotion, is used when one person shares the feelings of another, as when one experiences sadness when someone close is experiencing grief or loss. Empathy is a newer word also related to “pathos.” It differs from sympathy in carrying an implication of greater emotional distance. With empathy, you can imagine or understand how someone might feel, without necessarily having those feelings yourself.

Sympathy is the feeling of pity or sorrow for someone else. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. So, empathy is a much deeper feeling than sympathy, as it connects you with the other person.

Sympathy is to understand what the other person is feeling while Empathy is to experience what they are feeling. Sympathy is Expressed for the other person, whereas Empathy is Shared with the other person.

Sympathy is more subjective and often causes one to become emotionally blinded, patronising, creating a divide between you and the other person – that you are lucky, you have come past the problem, but they are unlucky and still struggling.

Empathy, on the other hand, is the ability to detect another’s emotions and deal with them in a beneficial manner while being able to recognize and regulate your own emotions. Empathy occurs in the here and now, shown by immersing yourself in another person’s world, without making yourself into them – you retain your sense of self and know that you yourself are actually outside of the problem. Empathy is objective because it views information through logical criteria rather than personal opinion. 

Social psychologist and bestselling author Brené Brown says, Empathy drives connection and sympathy drives disconnection.

The Bible in Hebrews 4:15 notes that we have a High Priest Who can empathize with our weaknesses and is therefore, able to make intercession for us. Jesus is able to advocate for us before the throne of grace just because He truly knows what we are going through and even though He Himself is perfect and pure, He is not critical but understanding.

Sympathy will make us consider and commiserate with others, feel pity for them in their situation, but that is all we will do. Empathy, on the other hand, will enlarge our understanding to know what they are going through and drive us to atleast pray for them. Empathy is at the root of intercession since it enables us to really put ourselves in the other’s shoes and sense their predicament without getting lost in our own emotions about it. We are able to uphold them in their infirmity because of our ability to identify with them without getting entangled in our opinion or our judgement about the situation they are facing. Empathy will make us excusers and reconcilers, rather than accusers and destroyers of our own like the devil!

Now the Scriptures do not stop with declaring that the Lord empathizes and identifies with us in our weaknesses (for He Himself was made like us Heb 2:17-18), but also proclaims that the Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion (Ps 116:5 NIV).

Compassion, builds upon empathy and is one of the main motivators of altruism. With empathy, I share your emotions; with compassion I not only share your emotions, but also elevate them into an universal and transcending experience. Compassion, or “suffering alongside” someone, is being more engaged than simple empathy, and is associated with an active desire to alleviate the suffering of its object.

Sympathy is a feeling of sadness or pity felt for another person. Empathy is a one-on-one connection because of a deep understanding that comes from sharing an emotional experience. Compassion is the willingness to relieve the suffering of another and compassion is a broader sense of care for the world at large. Mark of compassion is the move to action!

The Gospel writers highlight Jesus being moved with compassion and always doing something to alleviate the suffering or need – feeding the multitude, healing the sick, opening blind eyes, making the lame to walk, raising widow’s dead son and sharing the good news.

Apostle Paul writes to the churches urging them to, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Col 3:12 NIV). Compassion is to not stop with feeling or understanding, but going beyond to do something to relieve the suffering.

I think my friend whom I spoke about, is not just emotional as he thinks, but truly compassionate, for I have seen him go out of his way to care for others, making him excel and stand out in his line of work. This inclination enables him to bring a new dimension to the highly competitive field of sales, for he operates with genuine concern rather than just an eye to profit and loss, even though that his sphere of responsibility. Compassion helps him go the extra mile in his daily routine, bringing a care that brands him as a follower of Christ and disciple of His teaching.

In this covid period, compassion and empathy, rather than just sympathy and pity, will enable us to be doers rather than bystanders or commentators!

*Pic courtesy google images, umsplash and shutterstock

*Information sources: https://compassionit.com/2017/08/27/empathy-sympathy-and-compassion-whats-the-difference/ https://keydifferences.com/difference-between-sympathy-and-empathy.html https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/should_we_train_doctors_for_empathy https://www.6seconds.org/2021/01/20/empathy-vs-sympathy-what-the-difference/ https://www.themedicportal.com/blog/whats-the-difference-between-sympathy-and-empathy/