When Amos & I were first married, we moved a load of small square bales.
By the time we were done, I was almost in tears. Amos was chattering away, oblivious to me and I was so hurt by how clearly he seemed to be dismissing me & my pain.
Which I told him.
To which he looked at me like I was crazy.
At which point I held out my hands that were blistered and bleeding.
It had never occurred to him that the skin on my hands was so soft it would tear open from that little bit of farm work.
After all, he’s had calluses on his hands for as long as he can remember.
In most cases calluses are a good thing because they protect you from pain— they’re a tough outer layer that stops the harshness and coldness of the world from hitting your nerve endings.
But Scripture is pretty clear about there being one place calluses should not be found: on your heart.
There is a process to becoming calloused. It actually starts with something hurting–and then little hurt by little hurt, your body builds up protection against the thing that’s causing pain.
When it comes to our hearts, there are endless ways this world digs and scrapes at us until we’re building up protective shields. Soon we don’t feel a thing–and when someone else is hurting, we’re confused as to how or why, much like Amos was confused when I was in pain.
There are two types of callousness that attack the Christian.
- A callousness to sin.
This happens when we allow little bit after little bit of damaging sin into our lives until our hearts are hard. In this place, we fail to hear the leading of the Spirit because we are so used to the negative effects of sin that we don’t even notice anymore.
- A callousness to our neighbors.
This happens when we feel something uncomfortable, maybe even painful, and push aside the circumstances that brought those feelings until we are calloused and dismissive of the experiences and words from those around us.
The cure from callousness to sin is acknowledging the problem, repenting, and humbly accepting correction instead of excusing one’s self from responsibility.
The cure from callousness to our neighbors is the same process.
While I have heard a lot of teaching from the church on checking my heart for a callousness toward sin–I have not heard much about watching myself for callousness toward my neighbor.
But it’s important, isn’t it? Just like my husband truly did care about my pain and difficulty, but didn’t show it because he wasn’t aware–so I believe that many Believers truly do care, but often fail to show that care because we aren’t aware of the severity of the issue.
When things aren’t hurting us, it’s easy to think they aren’t hurting others.
But that’s not the way it works.
So how do we combat this callousness?
I don’t have all the answers, but I can tell you the things I’ve done in my own life and I have seen so much healing.
How do we overcome a callous heart toward our neighbor?
1. Start with prayer.
In Psalm 37:4 it says to “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” This is a super well-known verse and we often think of it as a “how-to” get the things we desire. But the word “delight” here literally means “to soften”.
To overcome a callous heart, we need to start by praying that God will teach us to be soft–to delight ourselves in Him FIRST. Before everything else.
2. Ask yourself, “What am I tired of hearing about?”
Do you have a list of things that you’re tuning out from your neighbors? Do you think things like, “What’s the big deal?” or “I’m so sick of this subject” or “Everyone is making a big deal out of nothing.”?
Maybe it’s abortion or racism or sexual immorality. Maybe it’s politics or the economy or someone’s opinions on masks or vaccines.
Regardless of what it is– are you dismissing your neighbor’s pain because you’ve built up callouses to that subject?
3. Repent of any wrong attitudes you find.
It’s not wrong to be tired of debates. It’s not wrong to struggle with certain topics. It is wrong to dismiss someone else’s pain because you think you “already know”, or maybe already know better than them.
You don’t have to agree with someone to hear their struggles, their fears, and even their opinions.
So if you’ve been callous toward your neighbor, repent. Ask the Lord to forgive you for your arrogance.
4. Ask the Lord to give you compassion.
Compassion is actually a pretty big deal to God. If you don’t believe me, check out the parable of the unforgiving servant. Or maybe the book of Jonah.
The good news is that we can seek God and His ways now before we end up looking foolish like Jonah did– beating the ground in a fit over a vine instead of celebrating the healing of a nation.
Don’t wait for God to correct you in this– just repent and seek Him. Ask Him to give you compassion now, today.
5. PUT OFF and PUT ON.
And finally, just like with a callous heart toward sin– when we’re callous toward our neighbors we need to do some switching up.
We need to PUT OFF our old way of thinking and PUT ON Christ’s way of thinking. (Ephesians 4:22-24)
And one of the most notable things about God is Scripture is that He is compassionate. So, if we’re going to be thinking like Him–compassion will need to be forefront in our minds.
We need to PUT AWAY falsehood and bitterness and wrath and clamor and slander and instead (hold on to your hats–there’s quite a list of what we need to do instead):
- speak the truth
- be angry and do not sin
- do not let the sun go down on your anger
- give no opportunity to the devil
- work hard so you can share with those in need
- let NO CORRUPTING talk come out of your mouths, INSTEAD ONLY WHAT IS GOOD FOR BUILDING UP that it might give GRACE to those who hear
- be kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving.
Oh, yeah, I didn’t make up that list. It’s almost a direct quote from Ephesians 4:25-32, which comes directly after Paul warns them about watching for those who have become callous (verses 18 & 19).
Why it Matters
Right now there are a lot of people shuffling through a lot of opinions. There are questions and politics and a health crisis and some light being turned toward some very dark and ugly parts of history.
It can be hard to respond with compassion–to stay soft and humble with those around us.
But let’s not forget who we are.
Christ’s possession. (1 Peter 2:9)
We have freedom but our freedom in Christ does NOT mean we can do whatever we want, but that we are free to do what we were CREATED TO DO.
Let’s keep our hearts soft, friends. Focused on delighting in the Lord, and living in His light.