The Calloused Heart Syndrome

Disclaimer: This post is from the archives, and may not represent the current views of the author. It also may not be at all interesting to read. Continue at your own peril!

Since there was a significant lack of interesting things that happened both last night and today, I’ll devote just one small paragraph to the list of events and then use the rest of the entry to talk about other, more interesting things. So, now that I’ve said that, last night was cool. We had youth, and then after the service, we had a “hot seat,” where we gathered around each person in turn and prayed for them. It was pretty cool, I must say. Afterwards, Jordan, Kyle, Lawrence, and I worked on our special music for this upcoming Sunday, and we also played a bunch of other Underoath songs. Then we went to Kyle’s house and ended up watching the Underoath DVD that he has. By the end of the night, I didn’t want to hear them anymore. I’m back to liking them, though. Today was mostly boring, except for Geometry class. The only reason that I liked that class was because we got our tests back, and I argued him into giving me two extra marks. It was great. I used his own logic to trap him into it. I would explain it, but the actual details really aren’t that interesting. I just felt good after bumping up my mark, that’s all.

On the bus ride home, I had a very interesting thought. I’m really not sure at all where it came from, but I suspect it was from somewhere deep in the dark recesses of my mind, where all my strange, seemingly random thoughts come from. The thought was this: The society we live in now is experiencing the symptoms of a calloused heart. Now, before I go on to explain that, let me point out that I’m speaking in generalities here. Lots of people talk about “society,” and it’s such a vague term that can apply to such a multitude of areas that it’s almost useless. Almost. Certainly society has a variety of aspects within it, because it is, after all, made up of people, and people are unique. But society also has trends within it, and that is what I am focusing on. I’m not intending to apply the general to the specific, as in applying what I say about society to every individual, but rather just noting some generalities that I see in society as a whole.

So what is the calloused heart syndrome? To illustrate it, let me show it from an individual’s perspective. After all, society doesn’t really have a “heart.” But the calloused heart syndrome is the shelter that people create around themselves to protect them from hurt. There are many people with calloused hearts. Let me explain the term further by drawing the parallel to guitar players. Over time, as they play guitar, their fingers harden, and extra layers of tough skin develop on the tips of their fingers to protect against the damage caused by the guitar strings. In essence, to reduce pain, the body has a natural defense mechanism that builds up protection around the areas in danger. When talking about a calloused heart, we’re not talking about physical calluses, but rather emotional ones. To protect from pain, some people build up defenses around their heart. As hurt and pain occurs, they separate themselves further and further from others, building up a shield around their emotions.

So what does this calloused heart syndrome look like? As it develops, it produces apathy and an uncaring attitude. The person separates themselves from their emotions, because they know that as they experience hurt, they feel it – if they are separated from the hurt, they won’t feel it as badly. The only problem is that our emotional being is a part of us, and the more we try to separate part of ourselves from the rest, we become dysfunctional. It’s like taking one of the wheels off of a car while it’s driving. It might appear to still function, but that only works for a while. Eventually the car, now skidding on the ground, will slow down and come to a stop. As human beings, we need our emotions, and though they make us hurt, we end up losing who we really are if we separate ourselves from our emotions. Apathy results, and if left alone, one person’s lack of emotion will result in a chain reaction. As they hurt others due to their lack of caring, that person begins to develop this calloused heart syndrome.

So how does this apply to society? I would submit that society as a whole is experiencing the same symptoms that an individual may show. As people, we are becoming more and more individualistic and isolationistic, separating ourselves from others. The idea that “it’s none of their business; what’s mine is mine” is becoming so much more prevalent. Materialism has its roots in this idea. People begin to amass wealth and possessions because “it’s theirs.” A great example of this is the privacy fence. Many people are putting these around their property, because they don’t like the idea of other people seeing what they’re doing. And while they have the legal right to do that, it causes a problem that I will examine in a minute. But society is telling everyone, “Live for yourself, because you’re the only one that will look out for you.” And as a result, apathy occurs.

The problem that results with this isolationistic society is the lack of emotion – we just don’t care about anyone else but ourselves. And while this has been going on ever since Adam and Eve, the fact is that as we move further and further away from Christian values, we drift towards this selfish isolationism that society offers us. In essence, as others hurt us, we look only to ourselves to fulfill our expectations. The horrible result, though, is that we were never meant to fulfill our needs by ourselves. We have needs that we have no possible way of fulfilling – they can only be met through others. We need other people, and they need us, and the more we drift away from each other and put up privacy fences between ourselves, the more we cut ourselves off from the only source of providing the social needs that we have. And so, subconsciously realizing our mistake, we as humans turn to the next option – more drastic measures. We, instead of breaking down the separating walls that divide us, just turn to ourselves even more. We begin to do whatever is necessary to provide for what we need. And that is the root of crime.

You see, crime is an entirely isolationistic idea. Its root is selfishness, and its motive is provision for the needs that we have. As we begin to see our needs, we become desperate and begin to just ever-so-slightly bend the rules. Our society basically has us in a catch-22 situation. On the one hand, it encourages us to isolate ourselves, and on the other hand, it sets up laws that make it impossible to provide for ourselves within legal bounds. Of course, these laws are there to ensure that no one else’s toes are stepped upon, as they try to provide for themselves in their own isolated area. We all draw boxes around ourselves to mark off our territory, and then realize that someone else has what we need in their marked-off space. And then, crime inevitably results.

As I mentioned from the outset, I am speaking in generalities. Obviously there are many examples of co-operation among people, such as mutually beneficial business arrangements, but because of greed, even these are tainted. The point I am trying to make is that we are all suffering in one form or another from the calloused heart syndrome. As we interact with those around us, we find that they fail us and let us down, and so we box ourselves up. Apathy results, and its effects are ever-so-evident in our society. How many people pass by homeless people on the streets? How many people change the channel when a commercial mentioning starving children comes on? And oh, of course, we never have enough time or money, because we don’t even have enough to provide for ourselves. But the thing is that the reason for that is because we’re all boxed up in our own little territory, and the only way to adequately provide for ourselves is through others. There is a multiplier effect when people work together. However, the only way to do that is to break down the walls between us.

It’s been said before that the problem faced by starving children is not a lack of food (or money), but rather an imbalance in the distribution of food (or money). The only way to balance it out, though, is by North Americans getting past their self-righteous attitude of giving $20 a month just to say that they give to charities, and getting into an actual attitude of giving to others for their benefit. I mean, honestly, we would think nothing of spending $20 on something we wanted. Many people spend much more than that on having coffee every day. If we actually cared anything for the people who are over in third world countries literally dying of starvation, then cutting back on our coffee intake would seem just so small a step. And yet, doing that, and giving the money we would spend in drinking coffee to charity instead, would likely feed a hundred starving children for a month. But which is more important, starving children, or drinking your flavoured diuretic? Which is more sorrowful, a child living only a fraction of his life, or us looking in the fridge and complaining, “There’s nothing to eat in this house!” I pity our self-righteous, blinded souls.

How is this disgusting attitude stopped? I believe it can only be reversed by a return to Christian principles. No other belief system or faith is as adequate for this shift in attitudes. The Christian faith is the faith that teaches that “it is better to give than to receive,” and tells the rich man to “give all he has to the poor.” Christian principles are responsible for the majority of the charity organizations that exist in this world today, and I’m sure the remaining charities could at least be traced in some way to the Christian faith. Our society offers nothing in the way of giving. It teaches only to take whatever is necessary, and then some. But, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27) Christianity is the only way to break down the walls that separate us and bring us together in unity and harmony with each other.

Of course, the major argument against this is the number of Christians who do less to help others than even the most devout atheist. The explanation for this is the sad, sorry state that most Christians are in. Many, or dare I say the majority, of Christians have been “polluted by the world” and, while claiming that they follow Christ, they don’t follow His example. He gave everything He had, up to and including His life, for all of humanity, and we can barely let go of the loonie that we reluctantly give up to World Vision. And Jesus didn’t even get a tax break! For goodness sakes, if for no other reason, we should give to charity because our government will give part of it back to us! We’re so deluded into thinking that we can’t survive without our daily coffee or the new object of our desire that we saw on TV that we can’t even possibly fathom that some people would readily sell that same object in order to just feed themselves and their family. Our sick, selfish minds are consumed with nothing other than ourselves and our personal satisfaction, and even when we go ahead and buy all that our hearts desire, we’re never satisfied anyway. True Christian principles teach us that the only way to be satisfied is by giving up our desires and replacing them with God’s – and His all-consuming desire is to love each and every human being on this planet. He gave everything up by sending His Son, and if we aren’t completely ready to do the same, then we are living in sin and selfishness.

And with that said, I am as much at fault as anyone else. Over the next few days, I will be looking at a bunch of charities to which I can donate money. In the past, my mindset has been to save my money for university, which, although is necessary, is not as important as helping others. With that mindset that I had, I found it hard even to tithe – in other words, give money to the God I claimed to love and serve. But I have decided to give money (after tithing, of course) to a charity which I will choose. And though I know that will leave me with less money for university, I can trust in the God that I serve, and I know that if it is His will for me to go to university, He will both bless this choice that I have made to serve others by giving, and also provide the money that I need for tuition for university. I’m trusting in Him, and that’s both a scary and a comforting thought at the same time. But I know that it’s the only way for me to escape the calloused heart syndrome. But what about you? It’s your turn now.

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