I recently found an old polaroid in the second drawer of my desk, stuck to the side of a dusty pencil box. The photo was produced from a knock-off Kodak instant camera that I received in middle school. I loved snapping the camera whenever I had the chance, but I admittedly had no idea how to use it correctly. As a result, the old photo is completely blank. The film was overexposed, flooded with too much light due to my poor photo-taking skills. I am bothered by the thought of the people or objects buried beneath the white. The overexposure denies me a story.
We experience this same loss when the volume of ideas and stories we are presented with is too vast. A costly symptom of this overload is apathy, and apathy unchecked is a heartbreaking threat to our capacity to know and love people rightly.
Apathy is a lack of concern manifested as the inability to empathize, decide, and mobilize. It is a silent, creeping epidemic in the world today. We are greeted daily with causes and people crying for our attention. The constant accessibility of the Internet creates an unprecedented downpour of information for us to absorb. I have seen the world and myself grow numb to the influx. We become overexposed and are left with blank stares and inaction because it is too difficult to filter the meaningful from the superficial.
When we become apathetic we diminish our capacity to love, to fear, to experience triumph, and to hope alongside people. Fervor and lifeblood are drained and we allow things to carry on, unwilling to expend our energy and resources. I have felt my own creeping apathy and it scares me. Recognizing that I would choose to remain stagnant in the face of a present need is deeply saddening.
Yet, in the midst of the constant flood of information and stories there are those who reject apathy. There are many loving doers that refuse to be passive and instead utilize the inundation as opportunities for action. Immeasurable amounts of injustice could be made right if we refused to be apathetic. If every person who heard of a child in bondage made a move to help, no matter how big or small, would the number of those enslaved decrease? If more of us had compassion on the homeless or the refugee, would the numbers of the displaced decrease? Yes. I really believe the answer to these questions is yes.
Apathy constructs a wall that prevents such a world from existing. So, how do we chip away at this wall, or prevent it from being built in the first place? As someone who has seen apathy seep into my mindset more often than I’d like to admit, here are some ways I have tried to stay empathetic and engaged:
- Identify the issues, people, and stories that you are passionate about. Because of our uniquely created souls we are individually moved more deeply by different stories. Seek out what those are for you. In a sense, this is honing in on the causes you naturally gravitate toward and focusing your field of vision to engage with ideas or people you believe in.
- Be proactive to educate yourself on topics that resonate with you and seek to understand as much as possible about the people involved. Follow their stories on social media and engage with them on those platforms. Ask questions: What have they experienced? How do they relate to God? What are their needs? What do they hope in? Each question draws us deeper into understanding and with understanding comes the ability to empathize. Empathy pushes us to love and fight for others. I believe it is our greatest weapon against apathy.
- Be bold to foster change. Every step toward freedom, truth or hope is impactful and invaluable. Whether you are a writer, musician, artist, engineer, teacher, high school student, or stay-at-home parent you have the ability to engage in the stories you care about. We are each created to demonstrate different facets of a supreme love. Maybe you are a creative who can use your craft to tell stories of the misrepresented. Maybe you can give financially to a cause. Maybe you can educate your coworker about sex trafficking in India. This takes courage and commitment and selfless love. And it is always worth it.
- Trust in the mighty Creator. We are called to do our best to fight for the voiceless, abused, and misrepresented, but at the end of the day we can find rest and solace in knowing we have a Savior who has heard every cry and felt every abuse of His children. The dismay and apathy melt away in light of a God who will stop at nothing to love and establish justice among His people.
A friend recently shared this line from a poem by Wendell Berry: “Be joyful though you have considered all the facts.” In the bombardment of stories of injustice and hurt and “all the facts,” may we wield joy and act in hope. In the face of such opponents as these, apathy doesn’t stand a fighting chance.
Photo by Benj Haisch