What shall we do with our frozen emotions?
What shall we do with our frozen emotions? The litany of natural disasters that have hit this planet over the last few days—with a 100,000 plus dead or missing from the cyclone in Myanmar to 19,000-and-climbing dead from the earthquake in western China to the twenty-plus who died in tornadoes across our southland—after awhile the television images of such poignant and massive suffering eventually become just another bit of suppertime news, don’t they? After all, how much can the human heart tolerate of suffering, even when it’s the suffering of strangers far away from us?
Sociologists describe a “freezing” effect the constant reporting of local, national and global disasters or tragedies has on our emotions. I.e., we freeze up—our sympathy and empathy, once fresh and quick, become calloused and hardened through the repeated witnessing (vicariously) of human suffering. Logically, it makes sense, since the capacity of our minds to bear the trials and sufferings of others is necessarily limited. (How many people can you genuinely emotionally care for at one time?)
But psychologists also tell us that an effective way to counteract the “frozen emotions” of the disaster cycles we experience is make a simple, tangible response. Tears of sympathy aren’t to be denigrated. But making a physical response to Darfur’s starvation victims or Burma’s cyclone survivors or Iraq’s orphaned children can keep the heart tender to humanity’s plight.
What can you do? Join the Crop Walk tomorrow and pledge a few dollars (or enlist sponsors) for every mile you walk on behalf of hunger relief. Go the website of a international relief agency (such as the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, www.ADRA.org) and make a donation to their global disaster relief efforts. Can’t reach out to the children of Iraq? Then join the Benton Harbor Street Ministry in its weekly ministry to children of our own inner city. The point is, rather than just watching and eating (during the supper news), you can do something tangible to alleviate the suffering of someone else on this planet.
Jesus’ final story before his death carries the punchline: “Amen, amen [Greek] I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these children of Mine, you did it to Me” (see Matthew 25:40). Can you think of a better way to keep our hearts “unfrozen” than doing something tangible for Jesus . . . right now?