As I tried to find something meaningful to write in a valentine’s card for my wife yesterday, it came to me that the best indicator of love for her that I could identify was the fact that I hurt when she hurts. I am truly pained when she suffers; particularly when the suffering is emotional. I think that’s because I often feel powerless to help make it better. With physical pain I can get her some medicine, or wait until it passes as most physical pain is inherently transitory. But emotional pain is often not easily remedied.
My emotional/spiritual connection to a person determines my physiological/spiritual reaction to their pain. When I watch somebody get injured on YouTube, I squint a little and kind of pull my head back and think, “Ow, that must have hurt.” But when my daughter falls down and hits her knee I feel a wave of nauseous contraction in my gut as I feel the pain with her. The definition of sympathy is “feeling with.” Someone becomes real to us when we consider their feelings equal to and just as real as our own. I think our efforts to minimize the pain of others is a manifestation of our love for them.