Amused or Embarrassed?
SUPPOSE someone very close to you, and in your company, made a glaring social blunder or gave a foolish answer in the hearing of others. How would you feel? Your companion most likely would feel deeply embarrassed. But how would you feel? Would you also feel embarrassment or would you join the others in the amusement or ridicule?
Due to their immaturity, children, when seeing a mishap to a blind or crippled person, may think that it is something to laugh at. Titus a thoughtless youth burst out laughing when he saw an elderly heavy-set woman fall on an icy street. It seemed amusing to him, but not to the woman who felt the pain and who seriously injured herself.
The Bible well states a principle that should guide us, when it says: “There is an appointed time . . . for every affair under the heavens: . . . a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to wail and a time to skip about.”—Eccl. 3:1-4.
What will help us to know when to be embarrassed and weep, or when to be amused and laugh? One thing is the ability to put ourselves in the place of the other person. Then we will not be like a certain witty newlywed girl. Every time her husband was vexed at having made a mistake, or at having had something go wrong, she burst out laughing. It struck her funny, but her reaction caused his vexation to be all the stronger, and to be turned against her. Obviously, that did not contribute to a happy home. But with experience she learned to be empathetic; and when her husband was upset, she either kept quiet or offered a bit of comfort.
When someone close to you makes a mistake, how do you react? Especially should members of a family give thought to this matter. Fellow feeling, empathy, consideration and thoughtfulness should cause us to view the mistakes of family members with compassion, rather than to take a superior attitude and laugh in ridicule. Does not God’s Word say of the human body that “if one member suffers, all the other members suffer with it”? Husbands are counseled to love their wives “as their own bodies.” If they really do this, they will not belittle their mates, even if these do make a mistake. The same principle can beneficially be applied by the rest of the family too.—1 Cor. 12:26; Eph. 5:28.
Unfortunately, one of the ways a lack of fellow feeling often manifests itself is by gossiping about the mistake another made, talking about it to others. Is that beneficial? The Bible counsels, “Speak injuriously of no one.” That rules out gossiping about another’s shortcoming. And love will remove even the desire to do so, because “love covers over even all transgressions.”—Titus 3:2; Prov. 10:12.
We all need to watch how we view the shortcomings of others, because the tendency of many in our day is to be less compassionate, to have less empathy. Why? In some cases it is because we come in contact with many persons. The more people we rub elbows with, the less personal our relations with others are likely to be. The pace of modern society quite likely is also a factor. There always seems to be so much to do and so little time in which to do it.
What we feed our minds will also influence how we feel about others. How can we make it a practice to read about or view motion pictures depicting violent crimes without becoming hardened by them? How can we choose as entertainment motion pictures that feature the exploitation of others without its causing us to become more calloused?
How much more beneficial it is to read God’s Word, the Holy Bible, daily! It can help you to express fellow feeling when such is called for, since it is filled with both admonition and examples along this very line. As Romans 12:15 advises us: “Rejoice with people who rejoice; weep with people who weep.” For an example of one who did this perfectly read the four Gospels, which tell about the life of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
At the tomb of Lazarus he “gave way to tears.” And toward the lowly and oppressed people of his day “he felt pity . . . because they were skinned and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd.” To such he addressed the comforting words: “Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and become my disciples, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls.”—John 11:35; Matt. 9:36; 11:28, 29.
And why should we be concerned with doing what is right along these lines? Because it is right. In this way we reflect the qualities of our heavenly Father and so bring honor to him. Furthermore, by being sensitive, by manifesting empathy and fellow feeling, we will often reap gratitude from the one who suddenly feels alone because of the ridicule of others. In all of this, we will benefit ourselves, since “he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.”—Prov. 11:25, New English Translation; Mark 12:31; Luke 6:31, 36.