Walking in the Shoes of the Other

bEmpathy. The ability to understand and share the feelings of another. I am blessed and cursed with empathy. It’s one of my top 5 strengths based on multiple personality tests. Empathy is a curse for me because I readily understand the feelings of other people but I have almost no ability to express those feelings. This drives my wife crazy and creates much agony for me. I am finding some relief however through writing books. Some have asked me why I don’t understand the views of the Korean missionaries and criticize them so much. Well, I only criticize after knowing how they feel and figuring out what I believe will help them. For 24 years I walked in the shoes of Korean missionaries. Then I started walking in the shoes of former members.

Today I would like to share with you the most impressive example of empathy I’ve yet come across. If I am blessed with empathy, then my new friend Timothy Kurek is doubly blessed. Timothy Kurek is the author of The Cross in the Closet. Recently he did a TedTalk. Please listen to his story of empathy as it is highly applicable to our UBF situation. Can you walk in the shoes of a former member?

TedTalk: Walking in the Shoes of the Other

You simply have to listen to what Timothy says at 9:55.

Timothy shares about the commonality of humanity. We are all born oblivious to social labels and lived as babies without fear. He asks: Can we re-learn intentional empathy? Timothy thinks so. He shares his own story of intentional empathy, and his amazing experiences with social labels.

How did the Christians in Timothy’s life respond to his intentional empathy? Silence. The silence was overwhelming. The Christians in his life treated him as if he did not exist.

Former member of ubf ought to be able to relate to this. After we left, we became dead to the ministry and had to endure madding silence.

So I ask again. Can you walk in the shoes of the other?


  1. A very relatable TED talk. Brian, I’m rooting for you to one day give a TED talk!

    “The response…was silence. Overnight, it was as though I had died, that I no longer exist.”

    When older church leaders no longer respond with silence and shunning to ex-ubfers, the church will have hope.

    • I would love to do a TED talk, and hope to setup something like a book tour :)

      “When older church leaders no longer respond with silence and shunning to ex-ubfers, the church will have hope. – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/08/11/walking-in-the-shoes-of-the-other/#comment-19014

      This is a great way to restate my two demands that I keep repeating. The starting point to redeem ubf is obvious: stop the silent denial and shunning. Figuring out the mess and untangling the organizational impediments will take a long time and will be difficult. But the starting point is easy to identify.

    • Instead of ending the denial, there are still ubfers out there trying to delete negative information about the group on Wikipedia. Wikipedia article blanking again

      It’s really pathetic that this person could not just come here to ubfriends and discuss whatever issue compelled him/her to delete the negative statement from the Wiki article. Instead of addressing the things that earn the cult label, the thought is still to erase the cult label.

    • Joe Schafer

      Is this attempted editing of Wikipedia coming from the Ukraine? From Korea?

      Bento has a network of agents throughout the world. He can easily figure out who is doing this. Bento sees all.

    • This latest one came from Korea…unless Forests is messing around again :)

    • Bento might also know this but our dark weblords says this latest erasing came from Kyonggi-do, Seongnam in South Korea.

    • The dark weblord also says that someone from Seongnam has visited ubfriends:

      Hello South Korea!

      And he also tells me there is a ubf chapter in this exact city :)

      Seongnam BUF in Gyeonggi-do South Korea‎

    • Joe Schafer

      Attention, agents of Bento: Do you know any native English speakers (e.g. 2nd gens) working at or visiting that chapter now?

    • Bento is really in the dark about stuff, since he is now regarded by some as a pariah. He is also still trying to figure out the online teckki stuff.

      It is so interesting (and “cute”) to me that someone keeps trying to remove this line from Wikipedia: “Some outside observers and former members describe the group as cult-like, excessively controlling, spiritually damaging and/or abusive.[2][3][4][5]”

  2. Kurek’s concluding question is highly relevant and practical. Do we still think in terms of black and white? Or are we willing to live in a world with wildly different vibrant colors? (I’m paraphrasing his question.)

    The questions I have personally heard over the last 7 years are the following:

    * Are you in or are you out?
    * Are you UBF or are you not UBF?
    * Do you focus on campus mission or not?
    * Are you raising leaders or letting people do whatever they want?
    * Do you carry out 1:1 Bible studies and testimony writing or not?
    * Are you studying the Bible or just reading books?

    Such questions are endless. They are also cute! Sorry, I couldn’t resist saying this.

  3. “I was taught that gay people were godless…that they were mutually exclusive.” This is what we are taught, and it is not right.

    Thank you for sharing this ted talk. I am so excited that intentional empathy is possible. It is a choice. Can we walk in the shoes of the homeless, the woman selling herself, the lgbtq community, the unchurched, the churched, etc?

    Empathy is something that can be taught and it must be taught along with reading and math. When I taught high school I was shocked at how little capability my students had for empathy. That is something that should be taught and enforced from kindergarten. But it means getting out of one s comfort zone. The philosopher Adorno said that the highest form of morality is being uncomfortable one’s own home.

    • You know Tim Kurek personally?

    • MJ, I agree. In the US we valud IQ so much. But at my workplace I was introduced to the concept of EIQ – emotional IQ. While my IQ is very high, my EIQ is very low. I think our schools need to include these so-called soft skills. The skills won’t be learned at many churches.

      I never met Tim in person. We are Facebook friends. We hit it off several years ago before he published his book. We met on the outlaw preachers forum and immediately understood each other. The Spirit was pushing both of us to enter into the gay debates. At the time, Tim was still appearing as gay, and was not ready to tell everyone that he was really straight and was doing a social experiment for one year.

      It has been amazing to talk with Tim along this journey. At one point he was on CNN and the View. His book later helped inspire me to be a Christian gay rights pacifist, and I setup my just-being-there blog: http://www.justbeingthere.org/a-message-from-a-christian

  4. An excellent recommendation by Joe, which could very easily apply to the church insisting on its own views and ways at the exclusion of other perspectives and methods: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/09/the-coddling-of-the-american-mind/399356/

  5. That article about the “coddling of american minds” reminds me of this buzzfeed clip: