Thursday, May 13, 2010
Many people are deeply sensitive in nature, often to a point that is usually considered a fault. I admit that I am rather sensitive, though not seriously so. Sensitivity, however, is not a fault. To sincerely value the feelings and opinions of others, and to have a tender conscience, can have as many good effects as it does bad. Likewise, unlike many would have you think, insensitivity is not virtuous. To not feel the affect of the voices of others or to have a stony fortitude that refuses to admit faults in ourselves that will hurt us is more often detrimental and cowardly than heroic.
Sensitivity reveals itself in several ways. We most quickly identify it when someone is openly sensitive... that is, when tears and moodiness display his hurt feelings. But, more often than not, those who are most sensitive will either be very shy, avoiding conflict with people whenever possible, or will dwell on experiences or events, especially embarrassing ones, exhaustively. Although these are natural reactions to sensitiveness, the solution is not to remain stationary in these reactions.
Sensitivity is a result of several different factors. Those with a very tender conscience, as mentioned before, will be very sensitive to the insinuation of their guilt. Those with very high moral or social standards will also be constantly on their guard and deeply affected if their correctness is questioned. Those with low self-esteem will often be severely sensitive, and generally react with some form of defensiveness when their pride has been hurt. (Surprisingly enough, sensitivity is only very rarely a result of pride... although it can lead to pride if fostered.) Those with a sense of charity and goodwill will also respond very keenly to any possibility of them having caused some pain or discomfort to others. All of these have both selfish and unselfish motives, and need to be manipulated in order to prevent future problems and a pretty miserable life.
So, what is the virtuous solution? A person can't always hide from the things that will hurt him, from his mistakes, or from embarrassment. The best solution is not to try to reduce sensitivity, or to prevent the occurrence of things to which we are sensitive, but to accept criticisms or embarrassment. Our reaction should be to thank God for our imperfections, apologize for our faults, and pray that we can improve. Rather than avoid situations in which we may be humbled, we should accept them as they come. If possible, we should even be thankful for criticism because we know it will help us rise in virtue and godliness. As fantastic and impossible as this sounds, it is a valid solution and does really help sensitivity as well as please God in the meantime.