The other day, I was having a conversation with someone and suddenly felt very uncomfortable. I had no idea why. I was perfectly comfortable with the person I was talking to. And I agreed with what he was saying. But for whatever reason, I just felt oddly uneasy. It took me days before I finally realized what it was. Every once in a while in the conversation, the guy I was talking to would use a curse word. I didn’t recognize that he was cursing at the time, but I did recognize this odd sense of discomfort as a result of it. And it took me some to realize where that discomfort was coming from.
This is a classic case of desensitization. That’s when you’re exposed to something so many times that you start to notice it less and less until eventually you don’t even notice it at all. When I was younger and I heard someone use a curse word, my response was immediate. It would get my attention and elicit some sort of emotion, usually shock. But now that I’ve been around it so much, my response has gotten weaker and weaker to the point that I sometimes don’t even recognize it anymore. It’s like when you come out of a movie and someone says, “That movie had so much cursing in it!” and you say, “Wow, I didn’t even notice.”
Now I wouldn’t say my desensitization is that bad yet. But that experience last week really was an eye-opener for me. I didn’t realize how susceptible I was to being desensitized, especially as someone who works in ministry. It can happen to anyone on any number of different things. That’s a part of the world we live in. But we have to be aware of it if we’re ever going to be able to do anything about it.
Desensitization isn’t necessarily bad in all cases. Think about how frustrating it would be if you woke up every time your air conditioner kicked on during the night. You wouldn’t be able to get any sleep! Thankfully, we become desensitized to these noises in the night, and we ignore them. Even in the case of curse words, a certain amount of desensitization can be good for some adults. If you work in a place where people are cursing a lot, it probably wouldn’t be best for you to have a strong emotional response every time you heard a cuss word. You’d never get any work done, and there’s no possible way you could witness to your unsaved co-workers if you were constantly upset with them.
But desensitization can go too far. If you were desensitized to something dangerous in your environment, such as the sound of an approaching vehicle or a threatening animal, that would be really bad. And if we get completely desensitized to things in our environment that are harmful to our souls, that can be bad, too. If you get too desensitized to hearing curse words, you may one day find them slipping into your thoughts or even out of your mouth! And we can’t have that. We’re meant to live in the world but to not to be of the world. As Christians, we’re called to be different. And too much desensitization can get in the way of that.
So what do we do about desensitization? It’s a tough question to answer, and every situation is different. But I think there are a few general principles that we would all do well to keep in mind when it comes to this topic. First of all, we need to recognize that desensitization exists, and that it is a threat. Secondly, we need to limit our exposure to harmful things in our environments as much as we can while also living in the world as we’re called to do. And finally, when we feel ourselves becoming too desensitized, we really need to search our hearts and eradicate the parts that we’ve allowed to become tainted by the world. We can only accomplish this with God’s help, and it’s going to require diligent prayer and time with him and his word every day.
We all become too desensitized from time to time. It’s a side effect of living in the world. And it’s not something to be ashamed of or feel guilty about. It’s something to watch out for and take care of when it becomes an issue. God has great plans for us to do wonderful things in his name as we live in the world. Let’s continue to do so as we also seek to become more and more like him each and every day. Have a blessed day, friends, and I’ll see you next week!