Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Was that me?

Because of indifference, one dies before one actually dies. (Eli Wiesel) Indifference is really a condition of the heart and mind in which a person has determined that they have very little interest or concern for something or someone. Another term we use to describe this condition that is quite similar to indifference is the term "mediocrity". There are some very telling telltale signs that someone is pretty much indifferent, or that they have "settled" for a position of mediocrity in their lives. An indifferent individual might be apathetic to the needs in their own life or those of another who may be right there in their path. They may be calm, exhibiting a very cool indifference in the face of what would cause uneasiness or apprehension in others. It could be they possess a seeming absence of emotional connection with others or circumstances around them - removed as it were from the influence the circumstances might normally have on an individual. Apathy is a dangerous condition of the heart and mind - seeping deep into the very soul of an individual and creating a coolness that is hard to overcome.

Patient persistence pierces through indifference; gentle speech breaks down rigid defenses. (Proverbs 25:15)

When you hear about indifferent people, you might think of an individual who struggles with frequent periods of depression or emotional darkness, but they are not the only ones that experience this kind of apathy or distanced-connection with the world around them. In fact, any of us can be indifferent in much the same way simply as a matter of our own choosing. Rigidity is different from apathy in that it suggests a condition of the heart and mind that exhibits an unwillingness to bend, with little to no concern for yielding the stand one has taken on a subject. We might label this person as "hard" or "callous". It comes from a Latin word from which we get another term - rigor. When we think of rigor we might just imagine the stiffness of death! Both apathy and rigor have one thing in common - the lack of movement!

Neither condition of heart, mind, or soul is desirable. An apathetic mind leads to very little positive action. A rigid heart, hardened by life's hurts will do little to reach out to another for help. An unyielding soul is in danger of hell - it will oftentimes make its own hell right here on earth! There is an antidote to indifference and rigidity, though. The patient persistence of a loving God is what breaks through our indifference - he challenges us to take up this same patient persistence in dealing with the indifference of others. The gentle words of a merciful God break through the areas of hardness or coolness in our lives, challenging us to exercise the same gracefulness in our conversation with each other, breaking through with gentleness and compassion into the coolest or hardest of places.

It seems like we have the greatest difficulty allowing God to "get into our business" where we have the greatest amount of indifference, or maybe where we have erected the walls of rigidness toward him. We need to remember that he "counters" our apathy and hardness in much the same way he asks us to "counter" those same traits in others. A wise friend used to tell me, "We are quick to see in others the things we don't want to see in ourselves." She was so true in her assessment of my actions and attitude! What I was unwilling to allow God to deal with in me became the thing I "criticized" most in others. We would do well to ask God to target areas of apathy and hardness in our lives. In turn, we need to ask him for the patience to persist and the gentleness of speech that will allow us to be instruments of grace in the lives of those we have been the hardest on. When we really begin to ask why we are being so hard on them, we might be surprised to know that it is because the area we find fault with is really so close to what God wants to deal with in us! Just sayin!

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