I was participating in a women’s prayer meeting at a church where I was relatively new. Until that day, I regularly offered prayer for others, but rarely requested any for myself. As my children began Middle School, I realized that it would take the proverbial village to protect my kids from the stunning corruption widespread among American youth.
That morning I mustered up the courage to ask for prayer that my kids would not grow desensitized, but remain kindhearted despite the shocking revelations that they are eventually exposed to at that age. I had recently confirmed for them that, “Yes, one German man and his team of assassins murdered multiple millions of people. Yes, Edgar Allen Poe’s writings are disgusting and disturbing. Yes, several men flew airplanes into buildings wanting to kill Americans.” The Holocaust, 9/11, and murder-filled literature, were upsetting to my 11-year old twins. They had also experienced their first pains of meanness from other kids.
Relieved that I had asked the women to lift up my kids in prayer, I experienced a temporary feeling of peace about the changes that Middle School had brought.
Pushing in my chair to leave, a 50-something, confident woman approached me. I expected her to confirm her intent to pray on my behalf. Instead, she blurted, “Your kids need to get desensitized.” Huh? I was confused, slight angry, and embarrassment rose up in my cheeks. Noticing my facial contortions, she offered, “I retired early last year, having been a Middle School Principal for many years.”
I stared at her without response.
“It’s just that the world is a terrible place and kids are awful. Your kids need to be desensitized or everything is going to bother them.”
Finding my tongue, I retorted, “not everything is going to bother them, but injustice, prejudice, and blatant violence against others should trouble them. I don’t want them to ignore or walk away from such things. I want them to be responsive toward others.”
She smiled at me in a condescending way, patted my hand and said, “Well, I’m just telling you from experience that it’s better if they get desensitized.”
My mind was outraged and my feelings hurt. I had expended terrific effort to train three kids to care. I was not about to conform to the ways of this world in a lazy, irresponsible effort to create more zombies. All that came to mind at that moment was the group of teens who watched, cheered, videotaped and photographed the brutal beating of one of their “friends”. Then, they uploaded the unconscionable horror to YouTube. While I know that level of degeneracy is rare, the day to day lack of sensitivity is rampant in Middle Schools and High Schools across the nation.
One of the great battles for Christians (unless they are the sort who cut themselves off from contemporary life) is to remain kind when they’ve had a string of wrongs hurt them over the years. In addition to the unforeseen events like earthquakes, hurricanes, and illness, we unfortunately also endure heart trauma by the entirely avoidable meanness of others. It is natural to grow hardened.
All humans make big mistakes and bad decisions. We err and say hurtful things. The difference between desensitized and remaining sensitive, is remorse. The desensitized person doesn’t experience regret, sorrow or repentance. There is no reflecting or pondering or consideration of the consequences.
Despite the bad advice of the retired principal, I choose to continue the hard work of raising three human beings who care. My intent isn’t to shield them. I encourage “speaking up”, even to those in authority, when appropriate. All of my kids play competitive travel sports and are not ones to shrink back from conflict when necessary.
They are acutely aware of the world’s evil, feel sad when they are treated unjustly, but always move forward strong and confident. I’ll never believe that desensitizing children so they feel little, if any, compassion, is wise or responsible parenting.