Sep 19, 2012

Me-Centered Hypersensitivity

It was refreshing to read a letter in a frum publication decrying the popular practice of castigating readers for insensitivity, for no matter what people say to the sick, mourners, childless, single, they are bound to be hurting someone's feelings.

The letter-writer (Francesca Zuckerman) recently sat shiva and she said, "Things that upset me one day, could sooth on another.  The shiva visit I found most touching, my sister found irritating.  The rav my brother felt was the highlight of the shiva for him, I was sure had overstayed his welcome."

She went on to say so eloquently:

"It seems we have traded our Jewish value of being sensitive to the feelings of others, for a Western, politically correct, me-centered hypersensitivity.  How often do we hear people crying 'insensitive' to something that really could be totally pareve, or treating an everyday event like a nisayon? ... We have become experts at tending to our own wounds, but unaware of those of others."

Then her wise conclusion:

"I am not advocating ignoring another person's tzaar.  Yes, when meeting an avel (or anyone suffering), we should try not to say something hurtful.  But at the same time, a person in pain has to realize that no one knows what is in his heart, and his pain stems from his nisayon, not from the people around him who cannot guess what he feels."

When people say and ask foolish things, let's regard the remarks as just that - foolish.  The intentions are almost never malevolent.  Don't we all have memories of words that slipped out that we soon regretted? Let us not allow those who made a mistake or those clueless people out there to ruin our day.

1 comment:

  1. Some of the sensitivity letters call others to task for failing to jump through hoops for them in their hour of need and others are simply reminders that insensitivity hurts. For example a childless or single woman would probably want to avoid social gatherings where women talk incessantly about childbirth and related issues. If others at the gathering can find something else to converse about, which is sometimes truly impossible, the childless or single woman will feel more included. On the flip side, those who are pregnant or married will not enjoy themselves as much if they must always curtail the subjects that they most want to discuss with the other ladies. A very sensitive friend is hard to keep as a friend. People tend to want to avoid them.