“Rejoice with those that rejoice; weep with those that weep” (Romans 12:15).
In “The Divine Comedy” Dante and his guide Virgil descend into the lower regions of hell where they come upon a vast cemetery. Here the souls of heretics—specifically those that have denied the resurrection—are kept. (Having believed that their souls will die with their bodies, their souls are now forever buried with their dead bodies.)
As Dante stares at one of the coffins a figure rises, Farinata, who complains: "Your family has been bitter enemies to me, and to my fathers, and my friends.” Dante explains that his family tried on at least three occasions to redress every wrong, “but they could never get it right."
At that point Dante and Farinata are interrupted by Cavalcante, a friend of Dante’s who lifts his head above the edge of the same tomb and asks about his son Guido who was married to Farinata's daughter, Beatrice. Dante, using a past tense verb in referring to Guido, gives Cavalcante the mistaken idea that his son is dead. Cavalcante cries out: "What did you say? Is he not still alive? Does he not still carry the light of life in his eyes?" And falls back into his tomb, grief–stricken and weeping.
Farinata, oblivious to Cavalcante’s sorrow, without missing a beat, picks up his complaint where he left off: “… and if they do not ever get it right that hurts me more than this wretched bed…”
I think of those occasions when someone reached out to me in sorrow and I, preoccupied with myself, told my own sad story instead of listening and asking questions to draw out the other person’s grief—and missed an opportunity to weep with them.
Or those occasions when someone shared a moment of triumph with me and instead of sharing that persons’ joy and enthusiasm I trumped their story with a joyous moment of my own—and missed an opportunity to rejoice with them.
The wise man said, “If you start talking before you listen intently, you’re a fool and a boor!” (Proverbs 18:13).