Friday, August 14, 2009


You're Going to Need Some Empathy

I have a guest post up over at C. Beth's "happy mommy" blog (pause for snide remarks).

This post is very personal, and includes some extracts from a letter I wrote to an old friend, including the following:

You are right when you suggest I lack empathy. To be truthful, I have been
observing that I also have grown increasingly numb over the years. Perhaps for
me it has been the burden of responsibility or the seduction of ease rather than
the pain of a broken heart, yet it is real nonetheless.

You'll have to visit Beth's site to read the rest (Note: Beth refers to me as a Pastor, which is flattering but erroneous). Overall, the gist of the post is that there is something about greater responsibility and visibility that can slowly drain a man of that part of him that used to feel deeply.

I have watched it grow over the years; talked, prayed and fretted over it; and tried to somehow find my way to the other side of it ... but in the end I sense that I have traded my former immature empathy for a more "mature" callousness.

It reminds me a bit of an old Keith Green song:
My eyes are dry
My faith is old
My heart is hard
My prayers are cold
And I know how
I ought to be
Alive to you
and dead to me

But what can be done
For an old heart like mine
Soften it up
With oil and wine
The oil is you,
your spirit of love
Please wash me anew
With the wine of your blood

1 comment:

  1. I thought of the recent posts on "the simple" when the matter of "numbness" came up: Scripture recognizes "simplicity" (a characteristic of youth) as a dangerous and sinful state, but it does feel like "optimistic innocence" at the time, and getting over it is literally "disillusioning". That process is, I think, a cause of numbness, and, in my experience, it can have sinful negative overtones, as one feels anger at oneself - because of all sorts of missteps - and then projects that onto others. I know that I have been awfully hard (in my heart) on some people, just because they were doing the same dumb things I did.

    Part of the disillusioning process also involves discovering "an inconvenient truth" that Scripture reveals to be true indeed: People really are as bad as Scripture says they are. Think of Paul's words to Timothy on the way people will be in our age: "... lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power." (2 Tm 3:2-5) Paul told Timothy to avoid such people, which surely must be interpreted as not associating with them in the work of the church. (See 1 Cor. 5:9-13) But, for those of us who are "in the world" (1 Cor. 5:10), there's no avoiding all that, and it's a numbing experience to come to the point where one has to acknowledge frankly that, "Yes, he's an OK guy, and a valued associate, even though at least half of Paul's list applies to him". One is caught between sanctimony and Spiritual indifference as temptations, and it's no wonder if one sinks into numbness.

    I think the remedy has to be a heartfelt and thorough-going appropriation of the glorious hope we have in Christ, and a loving trust that He is doing what is best, leaving us here in the middle of all this, for our good - as we learn to repent without resentment - and for the good of others - as we learn to love and serve people, even though they really are that bad. My experience is that this process - and the fading of numbness - is a slow one, and I know I have a long way to go.


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