Bruce's Blog


7 Deadly Attitudes: Part 1

January 25th, 2013

In his book Soulwise: How to Create a Conspiracy of Hope, Health and Harmony, Dr. Phil Johnson addresses seven attitudes that can be deadly to our global family:

  • Indifference
  • Inhumanity
  • Insensitivity
  • Insolence
  • Insularity
  • Intolerance
  • Invincibility

More locally these same attitudes contribute to the blight of allowing our neighbors to live in poverty relative to the rest of us.

Deadly Indifference

Indifference, the "whatever" response of disturbing fear, describes our uncaring posture--our lethargy to offer options for economic and human solutions for those around us.  Indifference can grow out of our feeling that we are just too small to make the vast changes that are needed to right all the inequities of life.

Beating our insecurity

Mother Theresa's statement, "If you cannot feed everyone, feed one," gives us a nudge from our indifference. If the big picture is too big, focus. Start with the one who is nearest you. Nobody can do everything, but most of us can do something.


Sometimes indifference is our response to having tried to be a positive influence in others' lives, and failing in the attempt. "We tried that and it didn't work," is the burned-out cry of individuals and organizations. A more constructive  response might be, "What were the components that didn't work and how can we change those to help our neighbors to whatever measure their success takes?"

Failure is ok, but not trying is unacceptable.

Indifference masks our fear of failing. We can't fail if we don't try. If we believe that it is wrong for a vast number of our neighbors to suffer economic hardship when we have more than enough, then we must act.

Do something.

My brother used to say to me when we were teen-agers, "Do something, even if it's wrong." We do not know what is going to succeed until we succeed. There is lesson and not shame in trying and failing, redirecting the process and trying again. Remember Edison's response to accusations of failure to get his light bulb working: "I have not failed; I have just discovered 6,000 ways that don't work." Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in getting up every time we do, brushing ourselves off, tweaking and trying again.

What are causes you have observed of indifference to the plight of people living in poverty?

What would you suggest as ways for us to overcome our own indifference and motivate ourselves to being present for others?


#1 Linda Looney said:

You ask what causes indifference? I think sometimes it is fear, if you acknowledge others are poor, then you have to compare where you are. It might not be where you think you are, so you don't do it. Another reason is that some think "others" will take care of things so I don't have to. A third reason, in my humble opinion, is that most folks get so wrapped up in their own lives, they don't see what is around them, they don't pay attention to the neighbor who has lost his/her job and now has to struggle to pay bills and feed the family. It doesn't occur to many that they could help even a neighbor. Self centeredness is rampant.

#2 Bruce Roller said:

3 really insightful answers, Linda. Thank you for joining the conversation. Do you have some ideas about the second question above? How do we begin to get around the comparison fear you mentioned? What steps might lead to our taking some share of the responsibility rather than leaving it all to the nebulous "others"? How can we begin to unwrap from our lives enough to begin to notice the needs of others? I welcome your comments.

#3 Kathy Bogart said:

It is so easy to believe that others are just lazy when we have no idea at all what really lead to the plight they find themselves in.
Lack of empathy seems to be one cause of indifference to the plight of others living in poverty. It is very easy to believe that one has plenty because of their own efforts not realizing that what they have is a gift of good luck, helpful genes, good health (mental and physical,) helpful nurturing when growing up, helpful experiences, encouragement from others, etc. Cultivating empathy would go a long way towards needing to help others, wanting to is not enough. One needs to feel the pull of empathy. Think “How would I feel if I were that person?” Get to know someone who is mentally ill, physically handicapped, been abused and or neglected, etc. Isolation does not lead itself to empathy.
To overcome one’s fears spend time with someone who lives in poverty. Reach out to someone near that needs help, even if it means working one’s way from someone who needs a bit of help to finally helping those who need a lot of help. If one fears contact with homeless or “street people” for whatever reason, talking with someone who has had one to one contact in helping a homeless person might help to allay fears
If one cannot give money, one can perhaps give time and talent in any number of ways.
Actively look for those in need. Make it a priority to reach out to others – the distance from plenty to poverty is a short trip. “There but for the grace of God go I.”

#4 Bruce Roller said:

Great points, Kathy. Sounds like tips from your own experience of relating to people in need. I like the idea of "actively looking" for people who can use a little TLC. Thanks for commenting. I hope you will continue to offer your insights here for the next several weeks of this series. There'll be a new blog post each Monday. You may want to comment on some of the comments as well.

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