I recently had the good fortune to be offered a new perspective on empathy. As a counselor providing online Christian counseling, it is something I think about regularly. I am a natural empath, so I usually find myself feeling more connected to other empathetic people. The topic easily intrigues me because it is such a large part of my identity personally and professionally. I won’t say I thought that I have learned or heard everything there is to be offered about it. I will say, though, that I was initially very surprised by this take on it.
While attending a parent’s conference at my children’s school, I was handed a printout of an article. The other parents and I were asked to read over it before the teacher engaged with us. I was reluctant at first. Then I saw the title: “How Reading Fiction Increases Empathy and Encourages Understanding.” Yep, I’m intrigued. I am an online Christian counseling services provider, after all.
Studies show that empathy is innate. I know, if you’re someone in marriage counseling or if you’re doing individual counseling work, then you might not think so. Maybe you’re trying to get it from someone who seems unwilling or unable to give it to you. You could even be the one struggling to give empathy to those whom you love. So, how can it be innate? Moreover, how can we believe people become more empathetic with age, as these same studies show?
The Link Between Reading Fiction and Empathy
Empathy, that deep emotional understanding and connection with others, is a fundamental quality for a Christian counselor. At least it ought to be. It’s what allows us to truly comprehend the struggles, pain, and experiences of our clients. But what’s interesting is the idea that reading fiction can significantly enhance this innate quality.
Let’s delve into how reading fiction and empathy are intricately linked. When you immerse yourself in a novel, you enter the world of its characters, and in doing so, you’re invited to experience life through their eyes. This immersion, whether in the trials of a character facing adversity or the joys of their successes, cultivates empathy.
The stories we read often introduce us to characters from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and walks of life. By following their journeys, we not only learn about their experiences but also gain insight into the challenges they face. This exposure to different perspectives can broaden our understanding and deepen our capacity for empathy.
The Innate Nature of Empathy and Its Growth
Returning to the question of whether empathy is truly innate and whether people become more empathetic with age, we find that these two notions aren’t contradictory. Empathy is indeed a fundamental human quality, but its depth and expression can evolve over time.
As Christian counselors, we’re well aware of the transformative power of faith and personal growth. We can deepen our understanding and expression of empathy through life experiences. We can also nurture it through the stories we encounter in fiction.
Why Christian Counseling and Empathy Matter
Now, let’s address why this connection is particularly relevant in the context of Christian counseling. Christian counselors are called to offer support, understanding, and guidance to individuals and couples navigating the complexities of life. Empathy is our ally in this endeavor. Having empathy that isn’t hindered by any form of cultural or experiential differences is invaluable.
The journey toward emotional healing and growth can be challenging. For those seeking online Christian counseling, having a counselor who is empathetic can make all the difference. When clients feel that their counselor truly understands their struggles and emotions, they’re more likely to open up and engage in the therapeutic process.
The beauty of using literature as a tool in our counseling practice is that it allows us to recommend books that resonate with our clients’ unique situations. It could be a story of faith, love, loss, or redemption. The right book can provide a safe space for clients to explore their emotions and experiences.
Most counselors have a list of self-help books and authors they readily recommend. I do too. I’ve also had one or two works of fiction and few good biographical books that I’ve suggested to clients.
The surprising link between reading fiction and empathy holds valuable insights for us as Christian counselors. By recommending books that touch the hearts and minds of you, our clients, we not only offer therapeutic support but we can also guide you on a journey of empathy and self-discovery. As you explore this connection further in your journey as a counseling client, we pray that you will experience transformative power of literature in fostering a deeper understanding of others and nurturing the innate quality of empathy within us all.
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