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The Power of Sympathy in Human Life

What a marvelous power has sympathy, and yet, like other good gifts, how often it is grudgingly given.

So strong is it that it will melt the stoniest heart, it will comfort the deepest mourner, it will raise the most degraded to strive for higher things, it will infuse hope into the despairing soul, and it will bring back the wanderer from the paths of sin and selfishness into the paths of truth and duty.

How sweet it is to feel that in our trials and difficulties—trials and difficulties which may, most probably, have been brought about by our own weakness and sin—how sweet it is to feel that some soul is in sympathy with our own, some soul endeavors to put itself in our place, to understand our sufferings, to feel our deepest woes, to comfort our sorrows, to give us wise counsel; it eases our pain and salves the deepest wounds to know that some heart beats in unison with our own. We no longer feel desolate, forsaken, despairing, if there is one soul, though only one, who feels for us and in a measure understands our troubles, who gives us sympathy and so consoles us.

There are times in the lives of most of us when we endure some especially deep suffering. We pass through deep waters, in which we are almost lost. It may be that we have sinned grievously, we feel that our sin is past forgiveness, and our companions make us realize only too fully the depth of our sin; so low have we fallen that they leave us alone as unworthy of their notice. We feel deserted, the waters almost close over us, and we are on the point of giving up the struggle; there is no hope for us, we will let ourselves sink; there is no one near to save us, no one who cares. But, over the dark deep waters there comes a strong, firm hand, the hand of one who possesses the Christ spirit, one who feels that even if we are very low, still we have not sunk beneath the power of sympathy. We grasp the hand, and we rise, slowly and surely, above the roaring billows; they strike less terror to our hearts; we may conquer them yet, for the hand which has helped us j supports us still, and soon we find we are clasping a Rock which stands far above the ii raging waves which had well-nigh sucked us down; the friendly hand has drawn us up to the Rock which is higher than we, and there we cling, saved by the power of sympathy. Sympathy is strong, sympathy is one of the most precious of Christian virtues; it not only shows us our sin in its true light; rashness, coldness, calm superiority, bitterest censure might show us our sin, but sympathy does far more—it shows us the means of freeing ourselves from the sin; it shows us the sin, but it also shows us the Savior. It leads our thoughts away from our weak miserable selves, away from the weakness which led us to believe that sin was but human misfortune, human destiny, against which it was useless to combat. Sympathy shows us that we have power to fight, to wound and to conquer the enemy, and to rise above the low aims and desires, which before actuated us, to higher aims, to ideals which we before believed it impossible to attain. Sympathy has shed her light across our path, and caused us to reason with ourselves as we have never done before. We feel that if someone cares for us sufficiently to sympathize; if someone thinks us not too low to be worthy of a thought of love; if someone takes the trouble to understand us, then there is some spark of goodness in us; our nature is not altogether low and despicable, and if one creature cares for us, may not others and we become more hopeful. We acknowledge our own weakness and sinfulness, but sympathy has awakened within us new aspirations; the power which we have hitherto buried beneath a cloak of indolence and self-satisfaction and later, perhaps, despair, forces its way upward, and we determine that we will rise; we see that we have only ourselves to blame if we sink again. Sympathy has converted us from base, mean creatures, with no aim in life beyond self, mere groveling in the dust, to higher, nobler beings, bent on conquering our weak natures, and by combat with evil, growing strong and true as God intended us to be.

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Olive Pickering

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