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Apathy: Managing Emotions in This Uncertain World

Filled with a sense of indifference, I sat and watched as the young sapling’s leaves rustled in the light breeze. Its small trunk swayed gently as the wind swirled around it. Suddenly, the wind began to become stronger. The sapling flailed about as leaves were blown from its branches. I felt as if I could relate to this little tree’s passivity as it surrendered its leaves to the strong wind. The sense of loss and indifference grew within me. I began to reflect more deeply on the growing emotion within. As I wrestled, I started to recognize it as a struggle with apathy.

Not one to give in easily to the rise and change in circumstance, I  am often quite stubborn in holding onto all that I once knew. I resist change with everything that is within me. Again, the young tree drew my attention. 

I began to imagine the sapling growing and extending its roots deeper into the earth, almost as if grasping for a firm foundation. Not wanting to be uprooted, I envisioned the young tree standing firm, bracing itself for the impending change of weather. I looked around at the bigger, more magnificent trees surrounding it and considered everything a tree had to endure to reach maturity. It met many a change of seasons while it grew to develop strength, character, beauty, and magnificence.

Saying Good-Bye To Apathy

I contemplated how, with the impending storm brewing on the horizon, I could give up and give in to the storms in life. That was a literal reality. Yet, considering the circumstances that brought figurative storms, and the indifference that was growing within me, I knew I could also choose to consider hope. I could start with digging into my faith. From there I could seek to take on a mindset of growth, strength, maturity, and magnificence.  With determination, I decided to kick apathy to the curb. Like the little tree growing deeper roots in spite of the windy gale, I was ready to embrace the sea of change up ahead.

Our global world, as well as each of our own individual and personal worlds, have endured a wealth of uncertainty and change over this past year alone. The impact of the pandemic and the COVID-19 virus has hit individuals and families in a variety of ways, ranging from minor to epic- crisis proportions. As we all strive to adjust to all the uncertainty and change we are, no doubt left battling a range of emotions. These emotions can rise and fall like the wind. We, like the sapling, must choose to either grow our roots deep, embracing the change and growing with it, or allow the winds of change to toss us around until we are completely uprooted and blown to smithereens.

managing apathy and indifference in uncertain world

What Is Apathy?

Apathy is a concrete and real emotional part of the battle. While the definition of apathy is a lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern, it can threaten the very health of our mindset at any given point of any given day. During this season of isolation, mask-wearing, and social distancing reality, apathy can slip in and quickly become a weighted blanket that we can struggle to take off. 

Ann Malmberg, a contributing author for Prepare/Enrich Blog, shared it this way with regards to the impact of gradual change: 

The reality is we change.  Our relationships change.  That is an inevitable part of life.  But perhaps the key is to embrace those changes, really wrap our arms, our minds, and our hearts around them, and realize that all of these changes have helped us grow and develop a richer, deeper relationship.

While experiencing apathy may be one of the prongs on the proverbial wheel of navigating change, I have personally found that labeling the emotion as apathy enables me to handle it. I can then more successfully navigate around how long it has a hold on me. Reflecting on the myriad of ways that gradual change may have encouraged indifference to envelop me, I can then hold and face the emotion. Eventually, like cogs on a wheel, I find the strength to move forward.

Managing Apathy

Although many times I often resonate with the wee sapling trying to hang on in the wind; I find that I do have options within the storm. 

I can make a choice to strive to thrive. 

Ann Malmberg continues to share this analogy when regarding our approach to change:

“…like a sapling that sprouts up next to a chain-link fence, gradually the trunk grows around the metal lattice merging into one.  You can still see fragments of each separate component, but separating them completely would result in destruction of the tree. The tree that grows around the chain link fence can still thrive.”

I can choose to embrace the change that is causing indifference by setting my site on something that restores my soul. Something that also reignites my passion or goals. This makes me stronger and is much like finding that cog on a gear to help move forward. For me, prayer, meditation, rest, hiking, and finding creative outlets are all helpful to move toward thriving. Clink by clink, cog by cog, apathy gets kicked to the curb.  

However, reconciling an immense level of change or hard circumstance is difficult. These instances may be what very well triggers apathy. They are likewise a key component to working through various stages of apathy. It takes time and courage to journey through emotion. Likewise, we have to give ourselves permission to extend grace to ourselves as we face apathy.

I have also found that striving to look beyond my own self is helpful when managing seasons of apathy. I am not suggesting or condoning comparison but instead looking beyond oneself in ways of reaching out to others. For instance, maybe it looks like delivering a gift basket to a friend struggling with cancer. Or making time to go for a walk with someone who is wrestling with loneliness. Each are tangible ways to move forward in finding healing, connection, and purpose. All of this helps us move away from the spirit of indifference.

managing apathy and indifference in uncertain world

Apathy During Our New Normal

Similarly, apathy can grow as we navigate into this season of “new normal.” We are hopeful this global pandemic is drawing to an end. Yet, this “new normal” brings with it the vast ability to continually change from one day to the next. With that uncertain reality, emotions and indifference can continue to mount. 

In his writing for the China Partnership Blog, David Chen shares the importance of considering how to best walk through this ever-changing new normal. His article, 4 Emotional Phases of Pandemic and Shepherding the Deeply Wounded, suggests how we should remain mindful of socially distancing ourselves, but not socially disengaging. In a season when everyone finds themselves online, and with their computer devices being overworked, remaining mindful of taking breaks from our devices is paramount. Showing up in conversations with those around us, whether in our homes or in our communities is essential. Bringing our complete and undivided attention is crucial. Making time for focused attention on and with one another lifts the spirit and upholds each of us in our need for connection.  

Likewise, finding time to pray and integrate daily worship into our routines is helpful in navigating this new normal. In life, this may look like meditating on Scripture while praying and taking all things to Christ because he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). Or it may look like centering oneself in an environment that is quiet, calm, and peaceful. As we make this a consistent practice within our own lives, sharing these practices with our families may also prove helpful in navigating away from apathy. Prayer and meditation have a beautiful way of pulling our souls toward connection, centering, and community.  

Focus on Hope

The world around us will only continue to change and shift like sand.  You and I will, no doubt, continue to struggle with helplessness as we adapt to our new normal. We might experience that everything leaves us feeling exhausted. We very well may even begin to struggle with hopelessness that lends itself toward apathy. Our actions may even begin to take on the look of being quite extreme, as our hearts scream how, “there is no way out!”

Yet, take hope. You and I don’t have to remain in those places. We can choose to embrace the emotion, reflect and grow with it. Likewise, we can seek to thrive while even within the midst of it all. 

As we spend time reflecting, we can ask ourselves:  What do I need right now? What can I do about this? Give space for self-reflection. By the same token, remember to let yourself off the hook. Understand that it is unrealistic to think you will have a solution for everything in one single moment. It is a process to navigate the deep emotion of indifference, let alone any season where apathy is hanging on. Krystal Lorenzo wisely writes in her article, How You Know When It is Time to Move On,

“We must make a choice based on the hand we’re dealt. A company layoff or takeover, a program with funding that isn’t renewed, a betrayal of a friend turned foe or the loss of someone close. Sometimes sudden. Other times gradual and almost unnoticed until you’re forced to create rhythms in the midst of your new reality. What seems like a setback creates the opportunity to try new things. Perhaps to say “no” while you get your bearings. Until it’s time to move on. Or to experience different opportunities one at a time without a long-term commitment.

All in all, let us each encourage one another as we grow, forge roots, and sway with the breeze. Consider the beautiful ways this season of uncertainty may even bring about joy and maturity while simultaneously strengthening us for all that lies ahead.

managing apathy and finding hope

Stacy McClelland

Stacy is a woman with Texas roots, who, as a lover of mountains, camping, and hiking, is over-the-moon to call Loveland, CO her current home. Stacy holds a degree in Elementary Education, having spent many years in the classroom as a Special Education or Substitute Teacher. As wife to her pastor-husband for over twenty years, and mother to their three daughters, Stacy has been blessed with the opportunity to manage their home and focus on raising their girls. Partnering with her husband in ministry over the past two decades, she is armed with experiences of walking through the hardships of life with many. However, she has also had the opportunity to embrace beautiful moments of joy, grace, and overcoming with others, as well. It has been her honor and joy, as of late, to serve and teach within Bible Study Fellowship as a Substitute Teaching Leader. Coming alongside other women to read, study, learn and grow in their understanding of the Bible and how it applies to their everyday lives has been where Stacy has discovered her “sweet spot” for teaching. Having traveled many parts of the world, she yearns to come alongside, support, and edify others in and through their circumstances. She hopes another avenue for finding connection with women will be found in and through her writing. For, it is her joy in life to encourage, uplift, and connect with youth and women in navigating “this thing called life.”

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