How often do you come into contact with someone who is insensitive? I don’t mean those people who accidentally put their feet in their mouths, or who are a bit forgetful, or who are ignorant of your situation. I’ll be the first to admit I’ve said the wrong thing, or not said something, or made a mistake and hurt someone’s feelings. This isn’t what I’m talking about. I mean people who come across as being thoughtless of you or the difficulties you’ve encountered in your life.
My most recent encounter was last night, with a musical colleague who yelled at me in the middle of rehearsal. I haven’t had another musician yell at me in a rehearsal since a really bad experience at a summer camp that left me in tears. Prior to that, never, not even as a young student.
Before that, it was through an interaction online. Through a friend I discovered a disturbing anti-abortion** advertisement shared through a social media site; an advertisement that graphically depicted a dead child, killed by abortion. When I shared with my friend how upsetting this particular piece of publicity was to me and to other babyloss parents, her only response was an apology – which felt a bit flippant. I would have rather skipped the apology and had the image taken down.
In addition to this, I decided that it was important to speak up in defense of myself and other grieving parents, so I contacted the individual who originally uploaded the photo. This person is a religious leader, someone I expected to hear my thoughts with great compassion and concern. I shared my story with this person, and shared some statistics of babyloss parents – how many of us there are out there, and how many of us struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and suicidal tendencies. I hoped that perhaps I could encourage this person to work to save lives by rejoicing in the miracle of life rather than focusing on the tragedy of death. His response was very “righteous” – but he did not even offer his condolences for the loss of my child. No offer to pray for my grieving family. He simply shared that he felt graphic and disturbing images were the only way to convince people of how great a tragedy abortion is. His response felt very insensitive.
I’ve had family members who have said patently false things about causes I support and ideologies I hold. Ouch.
I’ve reached the stage in my grief journey when people are starting to ask about “the next baby” – the one that is supposed to fix everything. Some of these people are truly well meaning; others really are just a bit insensitive. Terribly painful.
We all come into contact with people who are insensitive to our raw, fragile human selves. Whether they are intentional like my rude colleague in rehearsal last night, or unintentional like my friend who shared an image that is far more upsetting to me now than it would have been twelve months ago, our society is rampant with insensitivity.
And if we’re all honest with ourselves, we can all admit that we are insensitive of others more often than we realize.
With these three individuals, I wanted to yell at them to shame them for their thoughtlessness. I wanted to cry and make them feel guilty for their insensitivity. I wanted to cause a big scene, to draw attention to their callous treatment of me. Right now I want to defend those desires, but what I realize as I look at them in black in white is just how insensitive they are to someone else. Perhaps someone who means well, like my pro-life friends. Perhaps someone who carries deep emotional scars, as I suspect of my musical colleague. How close I was to responding to sin with more sin.
I’m feeling humbled at the moment, feeling that Jesus’ teaching about lust and adultery in Matthew 5:28 applies here. My desire to hurt those who hurt me is sinful. If I want to live in a world of insensitive people, I must start with my own insensitive thoughts and desires.
So here’s how I’m going to be dealing with insensitive words and actions from others:
1. I’m going to focus on developing the Fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control. In this particular area, I’m going to be working particularly on love, patience, kindness and self-control.
2. I’m going to identify and confess sinful reactions that I would use to protect myself or shame others: like angry or bitter words, self-righteous attitudes, and grudge-holding.
3. I am going to pray for wisdom (James 1:5) and then speak Truth in love when it is appropriate.
4. I’m going to spend more time focusing on fixing my own insensitive behavior rather than fixing others’ insensitive behavior. (Matthew 7:3-5)
None of this means that others’ insensitive remarks and actions will stop hurting. They will continue to hurt. I cannot change that. I also cannot change the fact that hurtful things will be said and done to me. I can, however, change my reactions and focus on fixing my own sin problems.
Has someone been hurtful or insensitive to you recently? How did you respond?
**Normally, I hate the term “anti-abortion.” I am pro-life and I prefer the term pro-life because I like the focus on saving lives. However, in my mind images of aborted babies have nothing to do with life, and I feel they should be appropriately labeled “anti-abortion.”