This week, I was writing an entry on self-focus and how it can be destructive. I was getting off topic when I was putting it together, and I’ll probably post it sometime in the future. For now, I wanted to write on what I’ve been dealing with lately: apathy.
There aren’t too many blog posts out there about apathy because it’s not simple to resolve effectively within the length of an article. Apathy can be complex. Ironically, the person who doesn’t care won’t always care enough to find a way out.
I doubt that many people who deal with apathy even recognize it as apathy. Instead, it’s interpreted as a casual “I don’t care” mentality that’s become so accepted in our culture that we don’t give it a second thought. Apathy is often a lie of contentment. It is hopelessness disguised as underwhelming disinterest.
I’ve misinterpreted a lot of my own “easy-going-ness” as patience. It’s not that I was great at being patient, it’s that I didn’t care about waiting. I thought being patient was easy, but it turns out what’s easy is being indifferent, to not invest any passion or care into something.
In an article posted on Desiring God, Paul Maxwell wrote, “‘I don’t care’ has become a parasite on something much more forceful: ‘That doesn’t matter.’ Recently, apathy has thrown off its garments of unrespectability and taken the judgment seat of cultural prestige. ‘I’m not motivated’ has been replaced with a bigger philosophical gun: ‘I’m not persuaded it’s worth caring about.’”
Last year around this time, one of my lungs collapsed. When I felt the pain in my chest, I had an idea of what happened. I’d heard about collapsed lungs before and that they were pretty common for my age.
I don’t know why I didn’t panic when the doctor at the ER told me I would need a procedure in a few moments from then where I’d be stabbed in the side with a tube. I barely remember being scared. That wasn’t courage, and I don’t even think it was shock.
I wondered why I didn’t care that my lung collapsed. Why didn’t I mind staying at the hospital for three weeks? Why wasn’t I scared that I would soon need surgery, which prior had always been my biggest fear?
In retrospect, I realized apathy was a defense mechanism. I didn’t allow myself to care. It wasn’t that everything was happening all at once and I couldn’t process anything, it’s that I didn’t want to care. I learned there was no risk in not caring, so I withdrew from the situation.
I reasoned with myself, knowing a collapsed lung being treated immediately wasn’t that bad in the grand scheme of things. I acknowledged that the classes I was missing, some of which I’d have to drop, weren’t that enjoyable anyway. I was also in a long-distance relationship at the time and I knew being in the hospital couldn’t take time away from it.
That might sound like optimism, but it’s not like I was happy to be stuck in a room unable to breathe normally. I didn’t think myself into a place of positivity and contentment, but of emptiness and carelessness. Apathy was the easiest way out.
I shouldn’t have done what I did. The decision to not care and avoid risk is cowardly, even when it’s easy to sympathize with. It can cause you to not have a say in whether you care or not about other things in the future. This is what’s happened to me.
When fear turns into carelessness, it should be taken as a warning for your soul’s well-being.
During seasons of apathy when everything feels irrelevant, there is one thing that I need to be reminded can’t lose its importance: eternal truth that transcends every temporary situation.
“This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us…”
Christian hope is different from other kinds of hope. Instead of looking ahead for things to get better, we’re told to look to Christ. We aren’t told to look inside ourselves and pursue the thing that makes us happy, which if you’re apathetic isn’t really an option. We aren’t told to remember that life gets easier, but instead to look to a person who lived and suffered for our hope. Because of His life and His sacrifice, we don’t have to be constrained to our brokenness, to guilt or shame or depression or emptiness or imperfection.
If our identity is found in the blood of Jesus, then carelessness doesn’t have the final say in defining us. He is greater than a feeling, or a lack of feeling. Jesus is greater than our fleeting passions and our discouraged plans.
“An anchor is also needed to keep a vessel from discomfort, for even if it is not wrecked, it would be a wretched thing to be driven here and there… Unhappy is he who is the creature of external influences, flying along in the breeze. We require an anchor to hold us so that we may abide in peace, and find rest unto our souls.”
-Charles Spurgeon, a sermon titled “The Anchor” (May 21, 1876)
A life lived for Christ is one of love, and it is worth more than a life of indifference. This is why apathy doesn’t have the capacity to last forever, even if it seems like it does when we examine our circumstance. When Jesus is at the forefront of your life, apathy is too weak to last. Focusing on your situation by itself can only lead to blindness.
What we need to do is step back, and remember that Jesus didn’t live and die for us so that we would be stuck in the same place forever, not feeling as though we have the capacity to carry out His plan. Jesus not only died for those who hated Him, but also for those who didn’t care about Him. Jesus died for those who watched as He suffered on the cross, not mourning His death.
His resurrection is a promise that He will not let us have hardened hearts forever. Because He rose again, prayers for joy are not in vain. To think we won’t change is to not trust Him. In reality, we are being made more like Christ. We are being molded by the redeemer of infinite grace.
If we feel as though our lives have ended and our passion has run out entirely, we need to realize that we aren’t looking in the right direction.
We need to look to Him.
“Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”