Is sensitivity a cross or a gift? Sometimes we think of sensitivity as a cross we bear. We reason, “If I weren’t so sensitive, I wouldn’t feel all this pain—not only my own pain, but the pain of others.” Yet, we also know that sensitivity can be a great gift. The sensitive person is often a more caring and compassionate person.
What is sensitivity—as we are using it here? Simply stated, sensitivity is the quality that makes us delicately aware of the attitudes and feelings of ourselves and others. The Golden Rule says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” That presupposes an awareness of our own needs so that we may “do unto others” what we ourselves need and desire.
There are certain advantages to being a sensitive person. It means we notice details that others may miss: a lovely sunset, a perfectly baked chocolate cake, an unassuming person’s generosity. It also means we read people well. We notice, for example, when someone is sad, embarrassed, happy, or angry. We’re good at picking up the “vibes” of a group which enables us to work well with others. Writer Cati Vanden Bruel says that another advantage of sensitivity “is finding wonder in the smallest things”: the giggling of a child, the subtle scent of honeysuckle in the breeze, the comforting presence of a loved one sitting near us, a small personal achievement.
Where is sensitivity found in the Bible? From the opening pages of Genesis, our Heavenly Creator is shown as a sensitive person. As God creates the cosmos, Genesis tells us that, after every day of creation, God “saw that it was good.” In other words, God was sensitive to the beauty and wonder of all created things. After God creates Adam, God is sensitive to Adam’s loneliness and creates Eve, a suitable partner for him. In the book of Exodus, God is shown as being sensitive to the anguish of the Israelites in Egypt: “I have seen the affliction of my people in Egypt… I am aware of their sufferings” (Ex. 3:7). God takes action by appointing Moses to lead the people out of their bondage. Sensitivity often arouses concrete action to alleviate the suffering of others.
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus is portrayed as a highly sensitive person. He worked his first miracle at a wedding reception, for example, because he was sensitive to his mother’s request. Mary too was sensitive to the young couples’ possible embarrassment if the wine ran out (Jn. 2:1-11). While being mobbed by a crowd, Jesus was sensitive to the tassel-touching of the woman with the hemorrhage (Lk. 8:43-38). And of all the individuals standing outside the temple treasury, watching the people depositing their offerings, only Jesus seemed to notice the poor widow with her two small coins, and (what’s even more remarkable) was able to instantly realize her amazing generosity (Mk. 12:41-44).
Writer Ted Zeff states, “The highly sensitive person has an important mission, which is to serve as a balance for some (insensitive individuals) who advocate a less than nurturing policy toward humans, animals, and Mother Nature.” If we are bothered by arrogant, cruel, heartless individuals, then we can respond by gracing our little corner of the world with a little of our own sensitivity. Carlos Valles, SJ, calls sensitivity “the art of the small.” Our sensitivity need not be expressed in wide, sweeping movements, but in simple little gestures: the attentive look, the kind interpretation, a smile, a “thank you,” the small token, the simple touch.
We never need apologize or feel bad for being sensitive. For Jesus himself was master of this “art of the small.”
Who or what helped you to grow in sensitivity?
Can you think of any other places in the Gospels where Jesus displays his sensitivity?
Think of a few times that you appreciated someone else’s sensitivity in a particular situation. How was this sensitivity expressed? What effect did this sensitivity have on the situation and the people involved?
PS: The past few weeks I have been picking up a number of new subscribers to my blog. But some of you may not actually receive my blog on Monday. The IT department and I are in the process of upgrading my blog and the blogs of the other SND sisters. Until this process is finished, you might have to search “Melannie Svoboda Sunflower Seeds” to get my blog each each week. I apologize for this inconvenience. Hopefully we will have the subscriptions up to date and running soon.
Our video today “The Little Things” and it’s sung by ForeverBeSure. The visuals elicited a vivid childhood memory for me: As a little girl, I played for hours and hours with my vast collection of doll furniture. Sometimes I played along with my girlfriends. And sometimes I played alone, composing plays in my head with the little plastic figures who lived in my imaginary little world. This delightful little song has a big spiritual message: Sometimes God loves us in the little things of daily life.
Please feel free to write a comment below to anything in today’s blog: words, pictures, reflective questions, video! Our readers LOVE to read the comments!