The overdose of empathy

When you read the Screwtape letters by CS Lewis you learn a great many things, if you’ll listen. It’s about as insightful a work we’ve available to us on the subject of deception and how humans are deluded by demonic entities. And it’s neatly packaged in very palatable allegorical form. 

In it you’ll find a higher level deceiver communicating tips, tricks and lessons to a lower level deceiver on how to keep the human they’re assigned to (patients) away from the enemy (Christ) and focused on anything but. They’re goal is to keep their hearts far from Him and they’re main tactic, the thread that runs through all their system and approach, is distraction. 

And as I was re-reading it recently I caught a glance of something that was extremely relevant to our current climate. Wormwood (the lower level deceiver) was instructed by his uncle Screwtape (the high level deceiver) regarding a patient who had recently been converted to Christ, to press the issue of emotion. That is, in order to win him back, keep his mind from rationale and logic, keep his spirit from sobriety and soundness and agitate the relationships in his life, and give him the cynical gift of victim hood. 

The goal in that case was to distract the patient from considering the thoughts and feelings of others and only consider his own. But it hit me as I was reading. Their is a subtle double sided tactic to this that is happening right now. Not the lack of empathy, but the overdose of it. To get the patient trapped in a prison of feelings and lock the door with the key of false virtue. 

The enticing sin of empathy, as Joe Rigney put it, “would have us suffer with others for the sole purpose of their feelings and not for their good”. This my friends, is evil and a trap. It is an opioid that causes us to dive headlong into the euphoria of false virtue with no real purpose of good, recovery, or solution. Just solely for the high. 

Christ calls us to suffer with those who are hurting. This is without question. But we do so with the intention of help, healing and recovery. To suffer with someone just for the mere sake of aligning with them to make them feel affirmed in their suffering is quicksand. It is a snare that pulls you and the afflicted down together. 

Instead of jumping in the quicksand, we should keep our feet on solid ground and reach to them to pull them up. There are those perfectly content with sinking sand. And those are the unfortunate souls who’d rather have you in the trap with them then they with you where it’s safe. 

Check your feelings. Do not discard them. But honestly check them. Filter them through  scripture and posture yourself where the Holy Spirit can apply the peace that will officiate them. Close your ears to tribal thought and listen to divine reason. I know it’s easy to get caught up in the pull of current events. And the delusion is at an all time high. But there does remain an answer. And Christ not only has it. He is it. But you’ve gotta know Him to understand Him. 

Start there. Focus on knowing Him in the secret place so you can represent Him accurately in the public space. Watch your step. The trap of empathy is everywhere. Steer clear of it. Once in its grasp, it is very difficult to get out.

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