The “…failure to register another’s feelings is a major deficit in emotional intelligence, and a tragic failing in what it means to be human. For all rapport, the root of caring, stems from emotional attunement, from the capacity for empathy.
That capacity – the ability to know how another feels comes into play in a vast array of life arenas, from sales and management to romance and parenting, to compassion and political action. The absence of empathy is also telling. Its lack is seen in criminal psychopaths, rapists, and child molesters.”
What about the upper echelons of the WTBTS/GB OF JW? Are they emotionally intelligent? Do they evidence this by understanding empathy and by being empathetic in practice?
“As Christians, we are called on to imitate Jesus in showing empathy. The Bible urges us to show “fellow feeling.” (1 Peter 3:8) It may not be easy to grasp the feelings of those suffering from chronic illness or depression—especially if we have not gone through such pain ourselves. Remember, though, that empathy does not depend on shared circumstances. Jesus empathized with the sick even though he himself had never been sick. How, then, can we cultivate empathy? By patiently listening as suffering ones open up their hearts and share their feelings. We might ask ourselves, ‘If I were in their situation, how would I feel?’ (1 Corinthians 12:26) If we sharpen our sensitivity to the feelings of others, we will be better able to “speak consolingly to the depressed souls.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14) At times, empathy may be expressed not only with words but also with tears. “Weep with people who weep,” says Romans 12:15.
The Greek word rendered “moved with pity” has been called one of the strongest words in Greek for the feeling of compassion. One reference work notes that this word indicates “not only a pained feeling at [the] sight of suffering, but in addition a strong desire to relieve and to remove the suffering.”
The Greek adjective rendered “fellow feeling” literally means “suffering with.””
“One dictionary says that empathy is the “identification with and understanding of another’s situation, feelings, and motives.” It has also been described as the ability to put oneself in the other fellow’s place. So empathy requires first of all that we comprehend the circumstances of someone else and second that we share the feelings that those circumstances provoke in him. Yes, empathy involves our feeling another person’s pain in our heart.
The word “empathy” does not appear in the Bible, but the Scriptures do refer indirectly to this quality. The apostle Peter counseled Christians to show ‘fellow feeling, brotherly affection and compassion.’ (1 Peter 3:8) The Greek word rendered “fellow feeling” literally means “to suffer with another” or “to have compassion.” The apostle Paul recommended similar sentiments when he exhorted fellow Christians to “rejoice with people who rejoice; weep with people who weep.” Paul added: “Be minded the same way toward others as to yourselves.” (Romans 12:15, 16) And do you not agree that it would be practically impossible to love our neighbor as ourselves if we did not put ourselves in his place?
Most everyone has a degree of natural empathy. Who has not been moved when seeing heartrending images of starving children or distraught refugees? What loving mother can ignore the sobbing of her child? But not all suffering is readily discernible. How difficult it is to comprehend the feelings of someone who is experiencing depression, a concealed physical impediment, or even an eating disorder—if we have never had such problems ourselves! Nevertheless, the Scriptures show that we can and should develop fellow feeling toward those whose circumstances we do not share.”
Well, the WTBTS/GB of JW certainly seems to have a good knowledge of what empathy actually is. It has been researched and published in their literature. In the Come Be My Follower text, the inclusive language of “we” and “us” is used. Similarly, the w02 text uses an inclusive style too. It is out there in the public domain.
Thus, can we conclude that those brothers occupying positions of authority (Governing Body members and “helpers” etc, as well as Bodies of Elders) exemplify the showing of empathy regarding those who have experienced the macabre nightmare of child molestation?
It will be very very difficult to get an objective answer to this from within the WTBTS/GB of JW themselves. I say this because in the many decades of its existence, I cannot find any evidence of them imitating the candour so evident in the Bible. The WTBTS/GB of JW points to candour as an evidence of Bible authenticity. I have read this portrayed in its literature, and heard it in public talks, and at assemblies of JW’s. Yet this quality is strangely absent in the WTBTS/GB of JW itself. I cannot find any acknowledgement on the part of the organisation for ever having gotten something wrong! I am aware of candour in the aviation industry – acknowledgement of error and taking steps to put the matter right and therefore prevent future re-occurrences. Some other commercial entities have behaved similarly, such as a well known UK theme park operator and a more well known travel agent (latter a difficult empirical pathway but they seemed to have gotten there in the end).
A huge problem facing the WTBTS/GB of JW presently is that of child molestation. Their response to accusations and lawsuits seems to that of denial, evasion, and rebuttal. In reading of the problem on the net and newspapers I have not discerned any responses consistent with what the earlier quoted texts (Come Be My Follower & w02 4/15) portray. This must compound the difficulties experienced by the child molestation victims and exacerbate their horrendous experiences. Were the WTBTS/GB of JW to be exemplary of empathy, then they would be demonstrating this by….
- Changing their policies
- Practicing a duty of candour
- Being cooperative with, rather than avoiding/obstructing the “superior authorities”
However, I have no vision of these changes being possible. I just cannot see it. I would contend that the WTBTS/GB of JW is refractory to counsel, exhortation, reason, and whatever else you can think of in that vein. I would be pleased to be wrong however. For they who so often preach the adoption of the "new personality", perhaps they should start with themselves!