3 ways to guard against desensitization

We’re no longer shocked by the things we see. We live in a culture where we have such easy and consistent access to entertainment, information, news, etc. And in addition to easy access, the content we view on a regular basis is getting more and more extreme. The amount of violence, pornographic content, and profanity that wouldn’t have been acceptable ten years ago, is just commonplace now. And it’s everywhere. You don’t even have to go looking for it; it’s right in front of you, in television commercials, movies, social media, magazines, and the nightly news.

 

Because most of us see violence and suffering on a regular basis via some type of screen, whether it be on your television or in your social media newsfeed, we’ve become immune to the feelings that should be associated with suffering. It’s affecting our ability to show true compassion or empathy because we see it as commonplace. When we hear about terrorist activities in the middle east, or injustices caused by racism, we think “Wow, that’s terrible,” but we only think that for a moment. Then we move on to our next thing. We order our Starbucks, we go to lunch, or we keep scrolling through Facebook and laugh at the meme that’s floating around that day.

 

The desensitization of our culture is something we’re doing to ourselves. And interestingly, it’s affecting more than just our ability to have empathy for people that are suffering. It’s also affecting our ability to see what’s good. You see, in the same way that being desensitized to violence affects our ability to be empathetic, desensitization can also affect our ability to experience true joy and excitement.

 

For example, something happened in the life of someone at our church recently that was amazing, and really exciting. But in response to it, I found myself just thinking, “Well that was alright.” I had kind of lost the awe and wonder of what had happened.

 

With some of the work that we’ve been a part of in Africa, we’ve seen and heard stories where lives have been dramatically changed because of the work that we’ve helped our clients do. I should be ecstatic about those things. Our company should be celebrating those victories. We should be extremely excited when we hear that good news, but in the minutia of the day, and because we’ve been bombarded with so much other content and news and imagery, we kind of become numb to both the good and the bad.

 

It’s tempting for all of this to be disheartening, but I want to give you a couple of ways that you and your organization can try to guard against becoming desensitized to both the positive and negative things you experience as you engage in ministry:

 

  1. Simply be aware of this reality. Think about how this might manifest itself in your own life, in your family, and within your organization. This desensitization of our culture hasn’t happened over night, so it can’t be “solved” in three easy steps. But even being aware of it will help you guard against it.
  2. Take time to pause and really celebrate victories and mourn hardships/losses within your organization. Don’t just rush on to the next thing. Intentionally slow down and take it all in.
  3. In your personal life, think carefully about what kinds of things you’re allowing yourself to take in. And how often. There’s nothing wrong with watching a movie or scrolling social media, but if you’re spending so much time taking things in from a screen that you’re not able to fully recognize and enjoy the good things happening in real life, you may need to reevaluate.

 

There are incredible things happening around the world because of the work of ministries and non-profits like yours, so let this be a reminder of the good work being done!

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