Indifference is the greatest cruelty

“I don’t want to be your friend anymore.”

I stood in the high school classroom, looking down with disdain at my classmate. The image blurs at this point. Did her face crumple? Did tears fill her eyes? Did others hear my words? Memory fails on these details.

Age and distance have sharpened my focus. Now I see how cruel my words were. Now I see how indifferent I was to the effect of those words upon her heart. Now I see the cruelty and indifference that resided in my own heart.

She had done nothing wrong. In fact, she had done many things right, though I didn’t see that at the time. My excuses are manifold and pathetic: there were mitigating circumstances, I was young and easily swayed by others around me, it’s nothing that other people haven’t said and done before. That doesn’t take away my responsibility for my actions.

Recently, I read Mark Mustian’s novel The Gendarme. Emmett Conn, a WWI veteran, is close to death and suffers from memory loss. Past and present have blurred and through dreams, he takes a journey into his past as a Turkish gendarme. He begins to remember his role in the forced deportation of Armenians from Turkey, his indifference to their suffering, his justification of his actions, and how this death march decimated the Armenian population. At one point, a minor character tells Emmett-the-old-man,

“My mother always says that indifference is the greatest cruelty.”

And I was guilty of this cruelty.

Indifference has a thousand faces. A careless word. Silence while people are slaughtered. Ignoring another person’s grief. Maybe it flows from a deep-rooted prejudice or the inability to tame our tongues or just never taking the time to mail that sympathy card or make that phone call.

My indifference to another person’s feelings didn’t lead to genocide like the fictional Emmett’s did. But it led to hurt and a broken relationship.

When I was finally confronted about my actions, something clicked. I saw myself, all the nastiness and disdain and snobbery that were inside me, and regretted it. I apologized to my friend, and she found it in her heart to forgive me. But things still weren’t perfect afterwards. The trust between us had been broken.

How many times has this scenario been played out across the world? How many times has indifference led to loss of friends, marriages, lives? What will it take for us to open our eyes, set aside the mask of indifference, and care what happens to those around us?

Have you ever been indifferent to someone else’s feelings or needs, or had someone else be indifferent to you? How did it feel?


11 thoughts on “Indifference is the greatest cruelty

  1. I have suffered from depression a lot of my life…sometimes I have hurt people due to acting indifferent, and I did not even know I was acting that way. I am like you, that I had to have God reveal to me how I had treated another person, and even though I did not say anything to hurt them…I did not say anything. Sometimes that is just as bad or worse! Maybe people from depression, when they are hurting themselves, try to protect themselves by acting indifferent. It could be a defense mechanism in not wanting to feel any more hurt from a person or the world, and so we shut people and the world out. I HATE the times I have done this, but I do believe the Bible talks about the fact that we are human, and sometimes we will hurt other people. It does not make it feel any better to know this, but we do know we have a God who forgives and can restore brokenness. Does this come close at all to what you are talking about? Thanks for your blog!


    1. Yes! This is what I’m talking about. 🙂 Much of my hurtful behavior does happen when I’m depressed or otherwise mentally unstable; I shut down and hibernate to protect myself. At my worst moments, I’m beyond pain and completely numb, and thus am unable to see anything from another person’s perspective. (I don’t know if that’s what was going on with the situation with my friend; the circumstances were too complicated to explain.) Thank God that he does forgive and restore.

      Thank you for sharing and thanks for subscribing to the blog! I hope you continue to enjoy it.


  2. Have I been indifferent? Frequently. When something, or someone, gets in the way of what I want. How this usually plays out is that, at bedtime, the kids pile into the master bedroom, when it’s time for mom & dad to finally decompress, be alone, talk, have grown up time, that I get mad, yell, tell them I don’t care what they want–that it’s not cuddle time, it’s bedtime, & they need to leave.

    More distressingly, I’ve made fun of my wife’s feelings at times.

    I can be such a heel!

    Thank God for His grace!


    1. I’ve been there, done that, can completely identify with being indifferent to another’s feelings when they get in the way of my plans (particularly my writing plans!)


  3. It is easy to forget about the other side, other people’s feelings sometimes. I suppose we should try and treat everyone how we want to be treated – it’s a cliche but it would make the world a better place!


    1. I agree! I think sometimes we are depressed, if we remind ourselves of this, we can consciously make the effort, even if our feelings tell us “we do not feel like it.”


      1. I read a book called “Get it done when you’re depressed” and one of the methods is to make the effort, even when we don’t feel like it. (Summon up the inner drill sargent, as she puts it.) I’ve employed that with my writing and I need to remember to apply the principle to my personal relationships. After all, I really do love most of these people, even when I don’t feel loving.


    2. Cliches are so often true, and yet we tend to ignore them because they’re, well, cliches. The golden rule of “do unto others…” certainly falls under this category, and I often violate it. Thanks so much for reading!


      1. Sometimes there is a fine line between taking care of ourselves and being self-centered. It is not selfish sometimes to take care of ourselves. That is where God’s wisdom comes in. Sometimes “interruptions” are from the Lord, and sometimes God would say, “Take care of YOUR stuff right now.” I think when we are depressed it is hard to distinguish between when we should help others and when we should take care of ourselves. When we feel we have let someone down when we really needed to take care of ourselves, we may berate ourselves, and say we are “bad,” and start the depression cycle all over again. We need be loving and gentle towards ourselves. I mean, we are talking about caring about others’ feelings…well, the same goes for ourselves. We need to learn to forgive ourselves when we choose the wrong thing to do….we need to ask for God’s forgiveness, and then accept his forgiveness.


  4. Thank you for creating your blog! I am so glad I found you. It really has helped me to read what others have to say and to share my thoughts! I have needed an outlet because like we have discussed, not everyone understands! :0)


What do you think? I'd love to hear from you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s