June 15, 2015

Life is crazy and chaotic right now – we have the new baby in the house, and we potty-trained the two oldest kids this week as well, so there have been a lot of messes to clean and a lot of supervision for potty breaks.  Also, the third child – who was neither potty trained nor newly born – seems to spend every waking minute trying to get into as much trouble as she can!  (Attention-hungry much?) πŸ˜›  So this week’s post is just a thought ramble!

I’ve been thinking about sensitivity today.

As a generally sensitive and cautious person (INFJ and all), there are many times I’ve been pained by caustic snark – not that it’s directed at me, but the fact that the caustic snark existed at all.

I’m not a fan of vitriolic bloggers (*cough*Matt Walsh*cough*).  Even if I 100% agree with what a blogger is saying, if they’re using a tone of aggressive sarcasm, or flinging around insults, I grieve to see my views represented in such a way, a way that might raise ire or hurt feelings – or simply in a way that disregards the feelings of others or doesn’t consider them to begin with.  My uncle says I’m a “gentle soul.” πŸ˜›

I have a hard time laughing at anybody because I’m too busy studying my own motivations for amusement.  Am I taking advantage of that person?  Am I puffing myself up?  Might I hurt their feelings?  Am I laughing because I like to see the failure or stupidity of others because it make me feel better about myself?  Where other people see a funny joke, I see hidden layers of wrong attitudes, sinful attitudes, arrogance, or cruelty.

Am I just looking too closely?

Should I toughen up?

Would I be a more efficient, more effective person if I balanced out the sensitive side of me, got myself a better sense of humor, and stopped micro-analyzing stuff?

On the one hand, I believe balance is good and healthy.  It is possible to be too serious!  No one likes a stick in the mud.  And after all, most of my concern is based on possibilities, not reality.  Am I falling into the pitfall of being offended for the sake of someone else who could be offended, but in actuality is not – thereby making me the only one who’s offended at all?  Maybe sometimes.

But on the other hand…

I don’t believe that because snarky bloggers pain me with their tone, they should pack up shop and stop talking.

There is a time and a place for bluntness and snark.  There’s a reason the world has “feelers” and “thinkers.”  If we were all sensitive little flowers, nobody would ever get anything done, because nobody would confront anyone else over sin or anything else.  Some amount of conflict is necessary in this fallen world!  We need people who are tough and sharp and can do it.  Sometimes a tough, sharp voice is the only kind of voice that can be heard by somebody equally tough and sharp.

The world needs all kinds of voices.

So maybe there is a place in this world for the sensitive souls too.

I read an epic fantasy book last week (a review copy of Lands of Ash by H.L. Burke…WHICH IS TOTALLY AWESOME AND YOU SHOULD GO TO HER RELEASE DAY PARTY ON FACEBOOK this Thursday!! Squeeeee!).  Some of the characters are “empathic healers,” who sense and feel the emotions of others around them.  They heal people with this power, through thoughts and memories.  Unlike many of the other characters, they can’t go to war.  They can’t cause any physical harm to others because it will give them equal pain.  They can’t even squash a bug – they’ll have a headache for the rest of the day!  And this is so sickeningly INFJ, I know πŸ˜› – BUT! – I immediately loved these characters and felt a kind of kinship with them.  (If I lived in the Kingdom of Forra, I would most definitely be an empathic healer. πŸ˜€ )

Sometimes they felt horrible for being so sensitive, so “ineffective” in the face of a cruel world that desperately needed strong warriors.  But then other characters would remind them of things such as these – You’re healers.  You do important work.  We need you here.  You don’t need to be able to fight in the battles because your task is to bind up the broken.

And in fact, there is a different kind of strength in their sensitivity…a different kind of power from that of the hardened warrior, but strength nonetheless.

A bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice… – Isaiah 42:3

People like to defend bloggers like Matt Walsh by saying, “Jesus said some pretty offensive things too!!”  But it seems to me that Jesus was a perfect example of balance.  He gave sharp words when they were warranted, and gentle admonitions for others.  He does not break bruised reeds, or pinch out weak flames.  Yet He will faithfully bring forth justice.  He has the power and strength to do so, and the wisdom to apply force or soothe injury as needed.

Being sensitive and cautious of others’ feelings isn’t a bad thing!  I have to understand that not all people are wired like I am, and the world needs the blunt-edged people, but the world needs us sensitive peeps, too.  Both are needed in our culture.  Both are needed in the church!  Maybe we should stop frowning at those who are “too hard” or “too soft,” and instead consider if they are merely misapplying their natural strengths.

The answer, I think, doesn’t lie in toughening everyone up or toning everyone down – sinners are rarely as perfectly balanced as Christ in this, and we need both sides, not just one kind of voice.  Ideally we should strive for that balance individually, but it’s also why He knit us into a Body together.  Not everyone is an eye.  Not everyone is an ear.  I’m so glad God made us unique and gave us various different gifts, and different voices to speak and different hearts to touch.

What are your thoughts?  Are you more of a sensitive flower or a snark warrior? πŸ˜€


  1. I love it! And you are definitely gentle and serious. πŸ˜› πŸ™‚
    (This is where you differ from Brad, who never takes anything personally, and loves sarcastic/teasing/morbid humor. This is the Ne side. :-P) Although, he is gentle and doesn’t confront as well. πŸ˜›

    ESFJ here.

    Unfortunately, I am not sure where my gifts are. On the one hand, I can be very sensitive to sin and pain to where I can’t sleep at night over it. On the other hand, I can be bold and blunt when I need to be. I also adore humor, and have found myself cheering on Matt Walsh in the past. πŸ˜›

    I wonder if it’s growing up in a more TJ home, where bluntness and boldness was the norm, and then adjusting to my more non-confrontational, gentle spouse. I’m wondering if my Fe is getting a chance to flourish. πŸ˜›

    This leaves me, however, caught in the middle, and I think I confuse and surprise people. Some times I’ll respond like a Thomas (my maiden name), other times like a Conte. People don’t know when I’m being humorous, people are taken aback by my occasional confrontation, or people simply think I’m not intimidating and bulldoze over me. I’ve seen all varieties. Then, on top of it, my normal demeanor is hindered by Internet communication, which can go awry easily. It’s all very complicated and not easy to figure out. πŸ™

    • Hmm…well, being sensitive to sin and pain isn’t exactly what I was talking about here, but that’s a different kind of sensitivity! I think you are very gifted in that way, especially having a hatred for sin that is far too rare among believers. <3

      • You’re very kind. πŸ™‚

        I meant, though, sensitive to others’ pain. πŸ™‚

        • I got it! πŸ™‚ I was talking in this post more of being actively sensitive toward others (cautious of *causing* pain) but I am definitely like you in feeling others’ existing pain sometimes, too. πŸ™‚

          • Oh, I see! Thanks for the clarification. πŸ™‚

  2. Wow…I’m not sure I have ever cried over an insect being killed. I don’t go out of my way to kill them (unless they are in my house, in which case they are invaders–or else my kind ENFP husband protects them and takes them outside. Unless they are ants or flies. Ants and flies fall outside the compassion radar. So do cockroaches. Digression alert!)

    Good thoughts, and a balanced view of both sides.

    And I tend towards the snark beneath the quiet exterior. My writing is deeply steeped in humor and quirky situations (although I let out a more lyrical, softer side in collabs). I genuinely care about people a lot, but in terms of showing that? It takes effort and thought and a lot of focus–thank God for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit!

    • I’ve never cried over a bug either, though I don’t like having to kill them nowadays. If they are invaders, though, sometimes they simply must die. πŸ˜› I agree about some of them falling outside the compassion radar!

  3. This was very special and sweet and I’m glad you shared it. I tend to be sensitive to others, but have to also watch my shark level. It can come screaming out when I feel like the stupidity level has risen beyond what I can bear. Saying that, I can spend days feeling “down” after hearing, reading, or watching sad stories. I totally empathize with what warriors go through and police officers and such. I am often the soft voice to my husband’s strong one.
    All that to say, I agree with you 100%. The church needs tender hearted lovers and hardened, flint-faced fighters and I’m thankful for both!

    • The stories you write sound pretty deep and sad too, Abby! Does it make you sad to work on your books?

      • Um… sometimes. πŸ™‚ But I always include hope and I always have a happy ending. πŸ™‚ (Even if people die.) And, I love happy-sad things. πŸ™‚

  4. This was great! Wise thoughts on balance for sure. Though I, too, am INFJ, and hate confrontation, I’m afraid I’ve a lot of snark! Though I do try to be sensitive to the company I keep and not blurt sarcasm willy-nilly, LOL. There have been a few impulsive times I’ve regretted what’s come out of my mouth, and I’ve tried to learn from those experiences. Always better to err on the side of silence than insert the foot into the mouth πŸ˜‰

    • Ugh, being snarky or harsh and regretting it later is the worst! I agree, it’s so much better to err on the side of silence. Did you grow up in a snarky family? My family was not a sarcastic one, so marrying into my husband’s very snarky and sarcastic family was a real shift for me!

      • My family wasn’t particularly sarcastic either. I think my generation (80’s) was sort of the ground swelling of that type of humor. (Valley girls, like totally gag me!) LOL. I went to public school and saw the birth of MTV. We were a very narcissistic group as a whole.

        Olive heard of families that don’t allow that sort of humor. I agree we must be extremely sensitive to how it’s dealt (or if), but there are examples of sarcasm in scripture so I feel like it’s legit and justifiable πŸ™‚

  5. Aww, you’re so sweet. :hugs:

    I’m your opposite, so, whatever abbreviation that is. Loud. Snarky. Thoughtless. Although I can’t stand to read Matt Walsh very much, either. πŸ™‚

    • *hugs back* Well, you’re lots of fun! πŸ™‚

      My complaints with Matt Walsh are usually deeper than just his tone. Ugh. Not a fan.

  6. I loved your thoughts on this. I tend to be more sensitive, but after being put on seizure medication I became more belligerent. I’ve always tried to look at both sides of an issue to be fair, but I’ve had my share of times that I wanted revenge. Not a nice attitude for a Christian, I know. I believe most of us are a mix of both, and depending on events, one side will stick out more than the other.

    • I agree, different sides of us will show in different situations.

  7. I can’t wait for Heidi’s new book. I saw your link on her Q and A that she posted on youtube, and found your blog from there. I have a love/hate relationship with Matt Walsh. I love that he stands up for what he believes in, I love to see the fire in his eyes–his passion. I think there is a place for him, because he needs to stand up to the progressives and liberals that are spewing just as much satire. He meets them where they are, speaking the same language. And he’s very much a black and white person. He does create a lot of controversy, through. I wouldn’t want to write what he rights, I’m not one of those people. But I pray that I’m not hurting the faith sometimes in my eagerness and fear of bothering and annoying people. I mean, people don’t have to read his work. He’s publishing it on the internet, so its not like he’s screaming from the side of the street. I’m a very sensitive person too. But I’m learning it’s not about me, it’s about furthering God’s kingdom. It’s not about other people either, or their feelings. I mean, that is nice and all but I’d hate to know that I enabled someone in their sin by being passive.

    Great read, love your thoughts. I totally cry over dead bugs, too.

    • I’m so glad you stopped by, Carolynn! “Lands of Ash” is great and I hope you get a chance to read it soon. πŸ™‚

      I agree, I have to confront my conflict-hating nature sometimes because to keep quiet and gentle would be enabling sin. Sometimes you have to speak up boldly in order to serve God and honor Him. Good thoughts on it being about God’s kingdom and not feelings (mine or others’!).

    • I totally agree with you, Carolynn! Good take on Matt Walsh. πŸ™‚

  8. […] or ComplacencyΒ (Tim Challies) – Heh, this goes right along with my Sensitivity post! Β Words for both the brash (controversial) and the sensitive (complacent) among us. […]

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