Just A Spoon Full Of Empathy Makes The Poo Easier To Understand

I have a story to share with you. It’s not a funny story or a heroic story. It’s a story of great frustration that led to some insight.

My office had some issues with payroll. The specifics aren’t important. What is important is that instead of the normal direct deposit I was given a check to deposit. No big deal. With technology today you don’t even have to go to the bank. Monica took the check, scanned it on her phone, and it was deposited on Thursday.

On Friday she received a message that my check was on hold.

The check was on hold until the following Wednesday. What the WHAT?!!!!

We needed to take the van in for some work, but we couldn’t do it until my paycheck cleared. So we decide to go to Bank of America to clear up the mess.

While in line an employee approached us to see what we were there for. When we told him he quickly said, “Oh yeah, there is nothing they can do.” That didn’t sit well with me. This is our check and without warning or an explanation they are holding our money for six days. I can understand one or two days. Maybe even first thing Monday morning. But I was have a really hard time understanding why the money wouldn’t be cashed until Wednesday.

When we make it through the line and to the teller she quickly tells us the same thing. I said, “That’s impossible. There has to be something you can do. We need that money.” Nope. She explained that because the check was from BB&T (The church’s bank) and because of the amount (I don’t make that much money) it was going to take until Wednesday to process.

So there was nothing we could do.

We ate Ramon noodles, sold plasma, and put our twins to work in a factory so we could financially make it until Wednesday. I kid, I kid. We were fine. But on Wednesday when all of our investments, and automatic bills were being paid we got a notice from Bank of America that said we had insufficient funds. What the WHAT?!!!

They let us know that they weren’t going to be able to process the check until 5:00 PM.

It was a wee bit of a mess.

Thankfully it all worked out. We paid our bills, and got the van fixed. It’s all gravy.

Now, I’m not mad at Bank of America. They were following their policies. I wasn’t aware of their policies, but that’s on me. To use their bank I must play by their rules. They didn’t create a new rule or intentionally do anything wrong. They followed their system and processes.

What made me frustrated was the lack of empathy from Bank of America.

Monica and I are very reasonable people. We try to follow the rules. We get that sometimes the rules make it tough on others. We know it’s not the teller’s fault that our check was on hold. We get it.

What would have helped was a simple, “I get that this is difficult. I wish there was something I could do.”

Empathy goes a long way.

Empathy is desperately needed in our world today. Christians should be leading the way in this. Empathy doesn’t mean we agree with everyone. It doesn’t mean that all opinions are right. Empathy doesn’t mean we hide the truth.

Empathy is putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. It’s about understanding and not agreeing.

Empathy doesn’t mean you change the rule or accommodate everyone who whines. Empathy doesn’t mean that Bank of America has to change their policy.

Empathy doesn’t mean you have to agree with why a person voted the way they did.

Empathy doesn’t mean you have to agree with a protest or disagree with a protest.

Empathy means you try to understand.

That goes so far in our world. Have you ever had a problem and had someone quickly dismiss it? It stinks.

Have you ever felt intense pressure to make a decision and after sharing it with someone they simply dismiss it like you are a blooming idiot?

Empathy is a discipline that we can learn. It’s not that some people have it and others don’t.

Empathy is trying to see things from someone’s point of view before you respond.

Other people’s problems stink. It’s difficult to understand someone else’s struggle. But just a spoonful of empathy makes the poo easier to understand.

A simple, “I can see that was difficult” goes a long way.

It makes people feel they are not alone in their struggle.

It makes people feel supported even if you disagree.

We love to treat problems like they are black and white. If we don’t understand someone else’s struggle it is easy to dismiss. Until you’ve walked a mile in someone else’s shoes it’s incredibly demeaning to dismiss their struggle.

Jesus said, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Mark 7:12.

When you are hurting, struggling, venting, questioning, or crying how would you want others to treat you?

Last week at Bank of America, I left wishing we were at a local bank that truly knew us. We’ve been with Bank of America for over 15 years. They don’t owe us anything. But it would have been nice to have some empathy. I would have loved to hear, “As a faithful Bank of America customer we appreciate your loyalty, and understand that this is a tough situation. We aren’t able to change our process, but we understand your situation.”

When we dismiss someone’s struggle we communicate that they are not important to us.

As a human I won’t always get this empathy thing right. It’s difficult to understand a struggle you’ve never experienced. For the Christian it’s a constant work in progress. We are called to treat others like you want to be treated. That means granting people the right to be wrong, and not dismissing their situation.

Empathy goes a long way.

Where do you struggle to show empathy? What would you have done if you were in my shoes at the bank? 

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Rob Shepherd

I am the full-time husband of a wonderful woman! I love being married! We are proud parents to twins, Hayden and Reese. In my spare time I am the pastor of Next Level Church. I have a relationship with God and it is an adventure. Oh and I wrote a book. It's called Even If You Were Perfect Someone Would Crucify You.


  1. JJ
    January 23, 2017

    I struggle when it comes to showing empthy to my husband.
    I would probably have stormed out and threatened to close my account.

  2. Ki
    January 23, 2017

    My first response is to not understand but then I have to step back and show emphathy. I wish I could show it instantaneously. It would save hard ache on both ends.

  3. Karen
    January 23, 2017

    Great blog and great subject. Empathy goes a long way. And can help heal. I’m not sure if I would have reacted. Unfortunately it probably would have depended on my stress level, their attitude and if I had read the Bible that day (not trying to sound pious- it’s just that it really makes a difference for me)

  4. Lauren Cory
    January 24, 2017

    Great post, Rob.

  5. January 24, 2017

    I’m sorry for your BofA problems. I’ve had similar problems in the past with them. The least they could do is treat your family to dinner at Chipoltes! Right?!!!


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