BRAVE Spaces: Rules for Engagement (Part 5)
Welcome to the BRAVE Blog! We tackle tough topics about identity, politics, identity politics, and what God says about all of it. Before we get too far into the conversation, let’s set some ground rules.
I want you to know that this is NOT a safe space. This space will challenge you, stretch you, and may leave you bruised and scratched. Places that have the possibility of leaving you bruised and scratched, are, by definition, not safe. Instead, I invite you into bravery.
The concept of a Brave Space isn’t brand new, but it is new-ish. I have used it for years as a framework for how we should enter difficult conversations. I originally heard of the Brave Space concept through an article written by Brian Arao and Kristi Clements called “From Safe to Brave Spaces: A New Way to Frame Dialogue Around Diversity and Social Justice.” Initially, I worked with some colleagues to create the first iteration. I’ve since Updated it to reflect my personal journey.
E - Empathy
Empathy is a big one. And true empathy is hard. Christ was the biggest empathetic presence we have ever known. Defined as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of others”, empathy is why Christ came to earth. If our goal is to be Christians or “little Christs”, empathy is how we get there.
Often, empathy gets confused with sympathy, which is unfortunate. I’d like to clear that up. Sympathy is defined as “feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune.” In each of these definitions there is a key word that distinguishes them from each other.
Sympathy is feeling for someone’s pain; empathy is sharing someone’s pain.
Sympathy recognizes an emotional load; empathy shares it.
Sympathy seeks to know; empathy seeks to understand.
Sympathy offers sacrifices for sin; empathy IS the sacrifice for sin.
While none of us are Jesus, we all have the ability to be empathetic. Empathy can be learned! If you’re not sure where to start, try naming emotions and what they look like. Take some time to imagine each emotion in your body and what it feels like. If you’re really stuck, check out the Pixar film Inside Out. Also, give yourself some grace if learning empathy is a new chapter of your story.
Keep these ground rules in mind as you navigate tough conversations. It’s difficult to keep them all in mind constantly, but if you feel your emotions rising, take a breath and run through assess. Chances are, there are steps you can take from these rules to bring you back to a place of peaceful engagement and discourse. If not, you are more than welcome to take a break, step away, and ground.