Post-Election Empathy for LGBT People

     Regardless of who you voted for, I hope your response to the LGBT people in your life is filled with empathy.  Showing empathy isn’t saying you voted similarly or differently than they did. It’s not saying you wish the results of the election were different. It’s saying, “I see that you are hurting and disappointed, and because I care about you, my heart hurts for & with you”. It shows that you see they are questioning the future and feel scared, rejected, disregarded, and with little hope for things to get better. 

Empathy is part of what makes us human.  It’s also the response of God toward all of us. It is the active expression of His love through the sending of His Christ.

When I show empathy, I’m telling the person that I see their humanity and vulnerability and that I have the guts to show up in their pain.  Most people fight like hell to avoid their own pain, let alone step into the pain of other people. As a Christ follower, He gives me the courage to face both and have the faith for Him to act redemptively in ways I wouldn’t expect.

 

But I think many don’t understand why the gay community responds so passionately and seemingly without tolerance in times like this.  For the LGBT person, it’s about much more than an election, people who think like them, or even rights they feel they deserve.  It seems to me, it’s also about being respected, honored, and truly seen in the broader community.  Even if you don’t agree with what they want, surely you can empathize with these deeply human, image-of-God desires.

When I was 18, I voted in the 2004 election and it was the first time I cared about who won the presidency. I had come out of the closet a year ago and was ready to fight for my rights and my ability to marry someday.  I was so hurt that my newly Christian parents had voted for George Bush. And my hurt came out as rage. Their vote felt like a vote against me.  It felt like they cared more about a man they didn’t know as opposed to their son they loved.  They couldn’t wrap their minds around why I expected them to vote according to my values, and I couldn’t wrap my mind around why they couldn’t wrap their minds around it.  When we feel hurt and threatened, our instinct is to blame, self-protect, and primarily only see our hurt. This doesn’t make us bad, it makes us human.  I see now that expecting my parents and others to vote according to my values, no matter how progressive and right I believed I was, would violate their free will and human dignity.  But I couldn’t see that then. I was too hurt.

Logic Doesn’t Heal Wounds….Empathy Does.

In a time of hurt, people don’t need to hear logical reasons for why their hurt shouldn’t exist. Logic doesn’t heal wounds, empathy does. We can talk about logic, critically think, and challenge one another’s belief systems later. But not until I’ve sat with you and heard your heart and why you are hurting. I want (and have) to earn someone’s trust before they should (can) hear what I think. But this is not why I want to be with them in this moment. Let’s let any agenda be crucified, and an invitation to Jesus be resurrected.   

This loss for the LGBT community is substantial. I don’t rejoice at the loss of others even when I disagree. Because to them it represents a loss of joy for their present and a loss of hope for their future.  So as I express empathy to those that I love and are LGBT, I hope they will find a never-disappointing-hope and a never-running-out-joy that is not subject to being dashed every four years, but in the God that loves and empathizes with them.

Proverbs 15:1: A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.