And sympathy is what we need my friends
’cause there’s not enough love to go ’round
No there’s not enough love to go ’round.
I’m not sure how many of you are familiar with the song Sympathy by Rare Birds which was later covered by Marillion. To be honest, Rare Birds predates my existence so the version that I first hear was the Marillion cover. 😉
Anyways, onto the song. It paints a pretty bleak picture of the world – of haves and have-nots. It challenges the listener (who locks his door as he goes to bed) to think of those out there in the cold and dark. The chorus points out rightly that there is a lot of suffering in the world that might not exist if only we had more sympathy.
The songwriter makes the connection between a lack of love and the lack of sympathy. As a pastor once said, the heart of the matter is the matter of the heart.
It all starts with the heart. Without having received love we do not have love. And if we do not have love in our own hearts how can we give love to others? In other words, how can an empty husk of a man, beset by worries and troubles, have the capacity to feel sympathy and hence be moved into action to care for anyone?
I’m involved in a “care” ministry at the moment. We’re supposed to care for and show Christ’s love to those who are experiencing crisis. To a certain extent♠ this ministry wouldn’t need to exist if we only had enough love for one another.
But humans are finite and hence our ability to care and love one another is finite. Man only has 24hrs in a day. He needs to allocate a huge chuck of it (approximately 1/3 or 1/4) to sleep alone! Then in the remaining time he needs to attend to his bodily functions (eating, drinking on one end and *ahem* out the other end) as well as, for most of us, do some form of trade that allows him to pay for the basic (or not so basic) necessities in life.
Showing love or care might involve financial support or it might involve spending time with someone. And the truth of the matter is that caring is tough! It takes effort to love someone, especially if that someone has problems, BO or is just plain irritating! It also takes effort on the part of the carer to be loving, non-judgemental and patient.
Now, having hopefully convinced you that loving and caring for someone requires love (read commitment), and is tough, I’d like to describe some characteristics, in my opinion,
of true love and caring.
1.It is intentional
What if someone you knew experienced a loss? You meet up with him/her over coffee and console them. You leave and promise to catch up again soon. But you fall sick, there’s a deadline at work, your relatives come to town, etc. Before you know it several weeks have passed by and you still haven’t caught up.
Caring is in my view too important to be left to chance. You can’t just care when you happen to have a free second. It takes time and intentionality, you need to make time for it.
2. It is sacrificial
You need to prioritise it. Otherwise it’s not a priority and you don’t really care. Not that you’re uncaring, just that you’re not caring as much as you’d like (if you had all the time and energy in the world).
If you want to care though, if you really wanted to give the level of care that’s required, then you have to prioritise it. You have to sacrifice other things. Give up bad things (e.g. watching TV) and maybe good things temporarily (e.g. call you mum) so that you can devote the time and energy required to care. ‘Cause believe me when I say that true caring take both.
3. It is not aimed to benefit self
You’re not caring so that others think better of you. You’re not caring because it give you an ego boost. Not to say that you can’t gain pleasure from seeing someone benefit from your care. But that’s a (good) side effect and not the primary motivation. You do it because you love the person. You want to benefit them, not yourself.
And as a result, your caring is not results orientated. I.e. you’re not thinking 10 sessions this guy better get over his girlfriend or crush. You’re thinking, where is this guy now? At what stage is he in? What does he need right now? Of course you want them to get better but the pace is determined by them and not you. You focus on the process.
But if you’re only concerns about yourself, your feelings and your time spent on caring then you’re missing the point…
In conclusion, we all have numerous conflicting demands on our time. As adults we need to make decisions how we spend our time and take responsibility for those decisions (whether good or bad). So if you decide to care, do it properly. Otherwise you’re just wasting your time and other people’s time, and worse you might actually cause more harm than good – better not to have started in the first place, no?
♠But only a certain extent. Because even if everyone was full of love for everyone else it does not mean that everyone is equipped or skilled enough to be the caring, listening person that is required by someone going through a crisis.