Bruce's Blog


7 Deadly Attitudes: Part 3

February 11th, 2013

Deadly Insensitivity

"I recall going to an interview for a position as senior pastor at a church in Manhattan. On the way into the church, I had to step over five people huddled near a vent to keep warm. I asked those in the church's selection committee how they were helping these men. Their surprising answer was 'we've got our own troubles.'" (Dr. Phil Johnson tells this story in his book Soulwise:How to Create a Conspiracy of Hope, Health and Harmony.) Don't judge these church leaders too quickly.


In our list (courtesy of Dr. Johnson) of seven attitudes that threaten to destroy the globe, insensitivity may be even worse than indifference in its results on people in need around us. Indifference is seeing the needs of those around us and ignoring them. Insensitivity goes beyond not caring to not even noticing.  Historic and beautiful downtown First (Park) Congregational United Church of Christ in Grand Rapids put up several Port-a-potties in their parking lot a few years back to shock our community into realizing that there was no place available for homeless people to relieve themselves at night other than in an alley (which, incidentally, is illegal). Plymouth United Church of Christ rented "Wage Peace" billboards around the city prior to the Iraq War to awake us to the horrors and injustice of war.

When events and happenings and people are outside our perspective (or our comfort zone) they are easy to overlook.


What causes insensitivity  to the needs of our neighbors? How did we get callous? What stole our understanding of others? We cannot see because we have turned our faces away for so long. It hurts too much to see. If all we feel is despair, guilt and frustration, we deny to avoid the suffering it causes us and thereby we perpetuate the suffering of less privileged people among us.

A remedy to insensitivity: hope and a plan It is a conundrum--which came first the chicken or the egg? There is hope. Some people are helping to bridge the hunger gap internationally and locally; many people are being helped that have not been touched before. There is more than guilt and despair.  And we can all help by putting our individual efforts and our inventive minds together to continually improve the lives of all people in our community.

Do we first have to achieve a trip out of denial? Probably. That's what sensitivity means after all, isn't it? Feeling it? Empathizing with the pain so we see the need and work at the means for relieving the burdens of our neighborhood and our world? As soon as you feel the pain link yourself to some people who are doing something about poverty now and working on plans to make it better.

Don't succumb to denial and the consequent insensitivity that prevents our feeling our world's needs and working together to make it better for everyone.

What agencies/organizations/people do you know that are working together to alleviate the effects of poverty?

How are you helping or how can you begin to help?

Your suggestions may inspire and educate others to contribute to our community in ways they had not yet seen.


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