Emails and empathy
Earlier this month, subscribers of the HBO Max online streaming service received a rather strange email. Appearing in their inbox was a message with the puzzling subject line of “Integration Test Email #1.” And with the content of the note being blank, many customers wondered about the meaning or reason behind receiving such an email.
Then came a second message a few hours later. An apology and explanation that it was intended to be an internal test email only and was never meant to be sent out in the first place. “We apologize for the inconvenience,” the company’s email said. “And, as the jokes pile in, yes, it was the intern.” As it turns out, someone at HBO accidentally sent an incoherent message to the entire subscriber email list.
You might imagine the sheer horror or embarrassment felt by the young intern responsible for such a major error. But instead of angry messages or irritated subscribers, people used the opportunity to share about their own work snafus. Thousands of people took to social media to share all sorts of blunders, mix-ups, and misjudgments they’d also made at work in an attempt to offer some semblance of grace to this anonymous intern.
People willingly shared some of their greatest mistakes in the workplace. Times when they, too, inadvertently sent the wrong email or flubbed a presentation. Others talked of how they accidentally deleted important company files or even hit their boss’ car. All of it as if to say, “It’s ok. I’ve been there, too.”
There’s one word for all the replies this HBO intern received: empathy. The ability of so many people to put themselves in the shoes of another. Rather than respond with anger or frustration or a complete dismissal of one’s feelings, these people instead chose to share words of encouragement and support because they’ve felt similarly to what this intern was surely experiencing.
Scripture also happens to be filled with descriptions of God’s empathy in the midst of our own struggles. God willingly walked the earth, encountering a whole range of human emotions and experiences, offering the ability to relate to our own struggles.
No, Jesus never sent an errant email as an office intern. But the Bible tells us Jesus wept and faced great heartache. Through Christ, God knows what it feels like to feel physical and emotional pain. Doubt. Anger. Irritation. Grief. Isolation. Jesus coped with it all.
Whatever challenges you may encounter, we get to be grateful for a God who responds with empathy, rather than anger. We worship a God of compassion rather than irritation. Faith won’t keep us from making mistakes or falling short of expectations. But we can give thanks for a God who says to each of us, “It’s ok. I’ve been there, too.”