Posts Tagged ‘apathy’

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What is kindness and what is the opposite of kindness?

Those were the two questions I asked on my FaceBook account, a few weeks ago.

Over fifty-five people responded, mostly females, varying in ages from four to … retired (I wouldn’t want to be unkind in my estimates). Those who responded live in North America, mostly in Canada.

I decided to break the two questions into two posts, and reverse the questions.

What is the opposite of kindness?

To respond to what is the opposite of kindness is much more difficult than the reverse, and a number of people indicated that to be the case.

One person said that the opposite of kindness is “one who lacks patience, grace and self control letting their emotions take over to be disrespectful”. Another said, it is “anything that makes anyone feel anything but joy, self worth and loved”. Still another simply said that the opposite of kindness is “wickedness”.

We don’t have to go too far to see what an absence of kindness looks like. As long as our humanity, our world struggles, we will continue to see and experience a lack of kindness.

If I were to break all of the responses down to two words that are the opposite of kindness, they would be selfishness and apathy.

Probably half of all responses fit into those two words. Though other words, such as neglect, meanness, greed, indifference, disloyalty, cold, rude, bitterness, darkness, cruelty, self-absorption, and thoughtlessness may have been the different words used, they all communicate selfishness and apathy.

Either we are unkind because we are too concerned with ourselves, or we just don’t care about others.

A response from one friend was of an image of two wolves, with opposite characteristics, and it reminded me of this story:

A grandfather is talking with his grandson and he says there are two wolves inside of us which are always at war with each other. 

One of them is a good wolf which represents things like kindness, bravery and love. The other is a bad wolf, which represents things like greed, hatred and fear.

The grandson stops and thinks about it for a second then he looks up at his grandfather and says, “Grandfather, which one wins?”

The grandfather quietly replies, the one you feed.

Perhaps we need to feed love, bravery and … kindness, in every day of our lives. And to feed these things might just change the world around us.


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It was a Sunday morning when, although I was fighting a miserable cold, the joy of singing in corporate worship to my Creator was such a joyful experience and privilege.

Until, I started to look around the sanctuary. I was dismayed to see many people not worshiping. There were people standing with their mouths closed. There were people sitting reading their bulletins. There were people sitting … staring straight ahead. There were people standing, looking around the room … oups! That was me too!

I found myself to be very critical of those who I was watching. Until I realized that maybe there were reasons for their non-participation in worship.

Maybe some of them were dealing with sorrows so deep, so dark that they could not open their mouths to sing the words. Or maybe they had been dealing with illness or physical conditions that are so debilitating that they could no longer sing songs of joy. Or maybe there were those who were facing their own private financial crises, with their demise, the demise of their family just around the next corner. Or, maybe they simply cannot sing … now that I can so relate to (well, my family can relate to my lack of vocal abilities).

So, I turned my head towards the lyrics of the song on the screen at the front of the room, and continued my own participation in the corporate worship:

“Blessed be Your name
When I’m found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I’ll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in Lord
Still I will say
Blessed be the name of the Lord”

And I thought, oh how I love this worship song, because it parallels the biblical story of Job … the man who God allowed Satan to take away all that was of earthly value to him. Job was inflicted with painful sores on his skin, his lively hood was destroyed, his children and wife died. And, through all of that, how did Job respond? “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.”

But wait, that means that Job had suffered sorrows, illness, financial crises and earthly loss of family members … just like the possible reasons (excuses?) I had guessed that people in church might not be singing.

But wait!

There is one difference … Job kept praising the Lord.

May I not forget that despite all that Job lost of what he loved, despite the pain, the sorrow, the loss and the personal crises that Job faced, he never stopped praising the Lord.

“Give to the Lord the glory due to His name;

worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness or in holy array.”

Psalm 29:2

“I tell you, if they (you … His disciples) keep quiet,

even the rocks will cry out.”

Luke 19:40

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According to http://www.thefreedictionary.com, the doldrums are, “a belt of calms and light winds between the northern and southern trade winds of the Atlantic and Pacific.” Years ago, when wind power was utilized for blowing the sails of the ships of the day, ending up in the doldrums could result in sailors being stranded for days, or even weeks, without enough wind to move their sails … possibly resulting in death.

Samuel Coleridge, in his famous poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, described this nautical region:

The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew,
The furrow followed free;
We were the first that ever burst
Into that silent sea.

Down dropped the breeze, the sails dropped down,
‘Twas sad as sad could be;
And we did speak only to break
The silence of the sea!

All in a hot and copper sky,
The bloody sun, at noon,
Right up above the mast did stand,
No bigger than the moon.

Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.”

The doldrums do not necessarily only have to do with a location in the ocean.

For many of us the doldrums might be related to the C. S. Lewis phrase, “always winter, but not never Christmas.”

In full force and with no doubt … the winter doldrums land. Oh, it is not immediate, it starts slowly with an increasing difficulty to get out of bed in the mornings. There is the appeal of bedtime, anytime after dinner. There is the recoiling whenever some new responsibility or activity or meeting is added to the calendar. There is a lack of excitement about just about anything.

Like the doldrums out in the waters, the winter doldrums back on land can be quite a time of thirsting for refreshment that is so needed, the sun. Our days are shorter, and for those of us living in the monsoon belt, the skies are so much darker. Our bodies are lacking from the natural infusion of Vitamin D from our solar buddy. In our weakened physical states we are more susceptible to the viruses and colds of the flu season. We are also more susceptible to feeling unmotivated, down in the dumps, sad.

It is believed that approximately 1 in 4 people suffer with some sort of Seasonal Affective Disorder/depression due to the doldrums of winter. It can start as early as October and last until into April. For many being intentional about taking vitamins, eating healthy and getting outdoor physical activity can make the season more bearable. For others a ‘sun lamp’ saves the day. For others still, medication might be needed.

For myself it was moving to the Pacific Northwest that introduced me to the winter doldrums. Each year is different, and is accompanied by one common thread … a heaviness of heart that descends upon me like the weight of one of those x-ray blankets that the dental office uses when filming ones mouth.

The doldrums are a period of moaning, groaning … of lamenting. Lamenting like the prophet of Jeremiah in his recording of his lamentations in the Bible. Even though he recorded miseries, weeping, desolation and destruction, right in the midst of the doldrums is his reason for hope:

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.”
Lamentations 3:22-23

Just before it, Jeremiah speaks of how his “soul is downcast within him” and just after he speaks of being alone, with his face buried in the dust.

May we all, while in the doldrums, or lamenting, be able to say, great is your faithfulness!

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Back in the stone ages, when I was an adolescent, I had a youth leader give me a rock for a gift. Actually she gave one to every girl there. It was a rounded stone, with a colorful sunset painted on it. On the back was written, “Fight Apathy” then she signed her name.

This youth leader was an amazingly loving lady. She had gone searching on the riverbanks for these smooth stones. She painted beautiful scenes on them, wrote on them, sealed them, then gave them as a reminder of the lesson she had been teaching. Mine has been part of the decor in my house for years. Now it is packed away in a ‘special box’ for me to pull out and remember.

For this lady to have gone to all that effort, her lesson must have been one she felt was worth the efforts!

Apathy is a lacking. It is a lacking of desire, a lacking of motivation, a lacking of emotion, a lacking of passion. Lacking of these things, means that they should have been there, but were not.

Apathy is dangerous!

As I was enjoying a few peaceful moments in the sun recently, I was pondering a number of things in my life, and when I pondered one specific issue, my thought was ‘I don’t care about that.’ My own thoughts echoed in my head. The issue was one I should care about. Throwing my hands in the air, and removing myself emotionally from the issue was not the answer. As a matter of fact, what I heard not long after my comments of ‘lacking’ was my dear, sweet, thoughtful youth leader … “fight apathy.”

To throw my hands in the air is like Pilate after the trial of Jesus, washing his hands (figuratively and literally) of the decision to crucify him. His apathy did not change the decision. His apathy did not change his part in the process. After all …

“In order for evil to flourish, all that is required is for good men (and women) to do nothing!”
(possibly the words of Edmund Burke)

To do nothing is a decision of lacking, a decision of apathy. Our families, our world, needs for people to throw off apathetic thinking. We need to become passionate about living, and about life. We need to be the agents of change in our world … for the good of individuals, and for the good of society as a whole.

Whatever we do, we need to do it with our whole hearts, minds, souls and bodies. We need to fight apathy!

We may have found a cure for most evils;
but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all —
the apathy of human beings.

Helen Keller

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