So I’ve been thinking a lot about selfishness recently. A lot a lot.
I live in a place where selfishness seems the modus operandi. It seems that it’s acceptable for everyone to look only to themselves, to exist completely within their own orbit, to never think about the people they share space and time with.
At church this past Sunday the first reading was from Colossians 3. The pastor elaborated on verse 12 by providing antonyms for the adjectives. The original reads: “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering.”
And his antonym for compassion (which was his translation of tender mercies) and kindness was “indifference”.
That struck me as critical and appropriate.
Maybe what I’ve been seeing around me, what has been so upsetting to me, is widespread indifference.
How is that different than selfishness?
Selfishness is intentional, conscious on some level, perhaps even malicious.
Indifference is simply an absence of care. And, like the absence of anything, it is not so much upsetting as it is just tragic. Why do these people, this culture, this community, lack compassion and kindness? Not because they have willfully stamped it out of their lives, but because it has never seemed necessary or important or worthwhile. Maybe it has never even been there.
What happens if you’re indifferent?
Your heart never breaks.
Your heart never soars.
There is no tragedy, but also no triumph.
There’s no pain at exclusion or poverty, but there’s no joy at community and presence.
Maybe that’s the appealing side of indifference: there’s less potential for pain. There’s less to fear, less unknown and unpredictable.
Compassion and kindness, on the other hand, require bravery. Being part of a community that might reject you – or might reward you – takes strength and courage. But it gives back life and meaning.
Worth the risk?