Empathy and compassion require attentive mind

By Dave Henning / August 7, 2020

“It’s not only deep thinking that requires a calm, attentive mind.  It’s also empathy and compassion. . . .  it’s only recently that [psychologists have] begun researching the sources of our nobler instincts.  What they’re finding is that, as Antonio Damasio . . . explains, the higher emotions emerge from neural processes that are inherently slow. . . .’ ” – Nicholas Carr, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains

In Chapter 4 (“Simple Unplugging”) of Get Your Life Back, John Eldredge reports that social media correlates to increased depression and anxiety.  But, the bigger picture reveals an insistent and unrelenting assault on our attention.  Writing in The World Beyond Your Head (2016), Matthew B. Crawford explains:

“The introduction of novelty into one’s field of view commands what cognitive psychologists call an orienting response. . . .  A new thing typically appears every second on television.  The images on the screen jump out of the flow of experience and make a demand on us.”

Furthermore, the Internet reshapes more than our ability to take on information.  Above all, the Internet alters the structure of our brains.  As a result, it’s possible we’ll lose our ability to focus on a complete task from start to finish.  But, to compensate, we’ll gain new skills.  For example, conducting many conversations at the same time across multiple types of media.  Thus, Nicholas Carr offers this conclusion:

“The ‘frenziedness of technology’, Heidegger wrote, ‘threatens to entrench itself everywhere.’  It may be that we are entering the final stage of that entrenchment.  We are welcoming the frenziedness into our souls.”

However, down through the ages, Christ followers have believed it’s very important to give God our attention – as a regular practice.  Yet, it’s impossible to give God your attention when technology targets you and takes you captive.  And you cooperate.  Hebrews 12:1-2 (NLT) reminds us:

“And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.  We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.”

Today’s question: What Bible verses help you minister with empathy and compassion?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Distraction = new socially acceptable addiction”

About the author

Dave Henning

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