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The Pain of Indifference in Relationships

Lori Colbo loves to write about her Christian faith and the Bible to encourage and inspire others.

The world was indifferent to the plight of the Jews during the holocaust.

The world was indifferent to the plight of the Jews during the holocaust.

Elie Wisel on Indifference

Nobel Peace Prize winner, Elie Wiesel, once said, "The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference." Elie Wiesel was a Holocaust survivor. The world looked the other way during the Holocaust, either indifferent to this hideous atrocity, or too fearful to get involved. The rest of the world said "It's their problem, not ours. We have our own national concerns." The world's indifference to the suffering of the Jews in the Holocaust is one of the great shames of the 20th century. The rest of the world would not choose sides. Their apathy came under the guise of being neutral and impartial. Neutral and impartial should never be a stance in the face of oppression and persecution of the innocent.

To this Wiesel determined, "I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim." That last statement packs a painful punch, does it not?.

Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim."

— Elie Wiesel

Indifference Breaks Down Family Relationships

The holocaust example above is on a grand scale. Indifference is found on a much smaller scale in the hearts of individuals and creates a breakdown in important relationships and the self-worth of those who feel unwanted. Following are a few examples.

The indifference of a husband and father is reflected when he yawns at his wife's greeting kiss; when he chooses a newspaper or extra work from the office over a date night with his longing wife; when he habitually promises "tomorrow" or "next time" to his family, and the tomorrow and next time never comes; when he says, "Go ask your mother," every time his children have a question or request; when he sleeps in on Sundays instead of going to church with the rest of the family; when his wife asks his help to make an important decision that affects the whole family, and he says "Do what you think is best." He doesn't go to his kid's sports events, recitals, or school functions.

There are mothers who shoo their small children away all day so they can focus on things of entertainment value, e.g. phone calls, texting, social media, television, or other activities that bring pleasure. Or maybe they are doing important things, but not as important as the children's need for their mother's time and attention. When her child shows her something he's colored, made, or accomplished, the child hears a disinterested, "That's nice honey, now go play." As a wife, she is indifferent to her husband's desire for her to attend an important function regarding his work; since it doesn't interest her, she says she doesn't want to go. She is indifferent to his affections, interests, opinions, ideas, and his work.

The tragedy in all this is that these parents are clueless that they are hurting their family. It never occurs to them to say to themselves, "I'm tired, but my spouse and children need to know I care, so I will do X, Y, or Z." Indifferent parents breed resentful, indifferent children. One day, their children are likely to be just as indifferent with their families.

The message to the family is "You're not as important to me as my own interests and pursuits. Your problems are a burden, you are a burden, you bore me, your needs are an inconvenience."

Worst of all are men who get their girlfriends pregnant and either demand an abortion or just walk out the door, never too return. It's difficult to say this, but most women who want and get an abortion, are indifferent to the rights of the baby they are carrying. It's about their body, their convenience. They choose to believe that the baby is not a human, just tissue that feels no pain. Many women suffer emotionally afterward for years to come. Some don't at all.

In a nutshell, it's about Me, Myself, and I.

Children feel rejected when treated with indifference.

Children feel rejected when treated with indifference.


Apathy also creates a breakdown in relationships with friends and others. Recently I heard the story of a woman who, with great hurt, said that no one ever calls her. She has many good friends that she knows from church and social settings; but outside of social situations, they never call and seldom return her calls either. "I'm just too busy," they say, when she asks how come they haven't kept in touch. "They just don't care," she said. "It's like I don't matter."

Another thing we hear a lot from people is "Oh, I'm just not a talk on the telephone person." You can call them and they won't answer. But within two seconds they are texting you. This is how it always is with them. Instead of giving greeting calls on special occasions, many people will text "Happy (fill in the blank). I love you." Another problem is not responding to phone calls, voice mails, emails, and texts. Caller ID is used to avoid callers we don't care to talk to for any number of reasons. This is more the norm now than the exception. Technology and social media have made it easy to be lazy and more distant in meaningful communication. But the bottom line is, we make those choices!

Many elderly people are deeply hurt and feel rejected and abandoned by lack of visitors or people to help. There's the grandmother whose adult grandson calls and says he will visit on Tuesday at 3:00 and never shows up or calls. This is devastating. Nursing homes and assisted living facilities are filled with lonely and abandoned people who seldom, and sometimes never, get visits from friends and family. Their last years are empty, and the depression can be profound.

The worst case of apathy in a friendship I ever heard of was when a man committed suicide after trying to contact his 12-step program sponsor and contacts on his list. One of the men he called wept in remorse later on because he had ignored the distressed man's thirty phone calls and texts, thinking he'd get back to him at a more convenient time. He didn't even bother to listen to the voicemails until the deed was done and it was too late. What a tragedy.

What do these stories tell us about indifference? What is at the root of it?

  • Selfishness
  • Self-centeredness
  • Pride
  • Me, myself, and I are on the throne!

Love cannot endure indifference. It needs to be wanted. Like a lamp, it needs to be fed out of the oil of another's heart, or its flame burns low."

— Henry Ward Beecher

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Indifference Toward God

In Revelation 3:14-17, Jesus didn't mince words with the church of Laodicea. They were tepid and indifferent toward God. They were comfortable, placid, and full of conviction that they had it all together. These are painful words to hear, but we must take heed:

"These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked..."

Vomit is a strong word. Strong's defines it this way:

•1692 eméō – properly, vomit (MM); (figuratively) repulsed, showing utter rejection (desiring total separation); "to reject with extreme disgust."

God was saying "You don't love me, you don't hate me, you just don't care! I am nothing to you. You think you have it all, that you are so righteous, and your works are so good. But you are in deplorable spiritual condition. You offend me and out you go!"

It's easy to wag our fingers at the Laodicean's, but if we are honest, we have been lukewarm at one time or another, perhaps for a long season. It's an insidious process, and if we are not on guard, apathy will seep in. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, it's the beginning of all things good.

The man to be afraid of is the one who is indifferent; what morality he has got is well within his own grasp, and Jesus Christ is of no account at all."

— Oswald Chambers, Biblical Ethics

When People are Hurting

Many people suffer from depression and other mental health conditions, loneliness, serious health issues, grief, and a million other types adversities. Many are passed by because people want to see happy faces and cheerful souls who seem to have it all together. Sometimes we just don't know how to deal with suffering people. It makes us uncomfortable, so we leave them alone. Suffering people can be in a place full brimming with humanity and feel completely alone because no one cares enough to greet them and offer a listening ear or do a charitable deed for them. People who are going through pain feel they are all alone and no one else has the same trouble.

Hurting people often times wear masks, knowing people don't care about or are afraid of their struggles. Why do we do this? How will we ever understand them if we don't make the effort to connect with them?

Behind a standoffish, shy, or testy person indicates a hurting person. We steer clear of we misunderstand their behavior. Sometimes, we just don't care.

Suffering people can be in a place full brimming with humanity and feel completely alone because no one cares enough to greet them and offer a listening ear .

Suffering people can be in a place full brimming with humanity and feel completely alone because no one cares enough to greet them and offer a listening ear .

It's Called Caring

Jesus was trying to get across to the man testing Him, that we are responsible to show mercy and offer aid to everyone who needs us because we are all neighbors to one another. Its called caring. But the priest and the temple assistant, who were fellow Jews to the hurt man, were indifferent to the man's plight. They had places to go, people to see, and things to do, and this man's misfortune was not their problem. Someone else would come along and help.

Someone did come along, and strangely, it was a Samaritan who helped the man. Samaritan's and Jews despised one another and had no dealings with one another at all, yet it was the Samaritan who cared and offered aid to the wounded man above and beyond what anyone would expect.

The Story of the Good Samaritan

One example in the Bible of indifference to the suffering of others is found in the story of the good Samaritan in Luke 10. Jesus told the parable when a religious leader questioned him in an effort to test him. His question was, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus asked him what the law of Moses said. The man quoted, "You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself." Jesus said, "That's right. Do it and you'll live." Wanting to justify himself, the man asked him, "Who is my neighbor?" (vs. 25-29).

Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.

By chance, a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.

Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’

“Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.

The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”

Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same" (vs. 30-37).

The Samaritan was the only man kind enough to help the hurt man.

The Samaritan was the only man kind enough to help the hurt man.

Not Too Late to Change

In verses 18-22, we see that Christ did not leave the Laodicean church without a second chance, however stern.

"I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

What a gracious offer! Jesus told them to invest in spiritual riches, so that they might be spiritually rich; to invest in white garments, which stand for righteousness only obtained from Him, that they would no longer have shame; to anoint their eyes with the salve of His Spirit, that they will have spiritual eyes to see His amazing love and grace.

Despite their sickening treatment of Jesus, He assured them that He loved them, and His chastening is born out of that love. He still wanted them to be His people! He still wanted to bless them. But, when God makes a promise, it's often conditional - we have our part - in this case, to be zealous and repent. Interesting he uses that verbiage. Christ is intentional with the word "zealous." He doesn't want half-hearted, meh, repentance, because it wouldn't be repentance at all. Repentance means to go in the other direction; to turn away from one thing, and to another. It's not enough to be sorry and promise to do better. Actions speak louder than words. He requires that we turn away from our sin, and turn our hearts back to Him.

The well-known words, "Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him and he with Me," is the most gracious offer God can give. What does He mean "I will...dine with him and he with Me?" Dining is an intimate experience. It's a time of sweet fellowship. God wants an intimate relationship with us. He's telling them, "Look, if you'll just open your hearts to me, I'll bless you with love and intimate fellowship." What a wonderful Savior!

Revive Us O Lord

God is calling us to wake out of our slumber, to seek Him to revive our souls.

Then we shall not turn back from You; Revive us, and we will call upon Your name (Ps. 80:18).

The remedy to an indifferent attitude is to repent and seek the Lord once again, to revive us. Then we will become the men and women and nation God has called us to be if we do this.

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."

— Martin Luther King Jr.

© 2015 Lori Colbo


savvydating on December 05, 2016:

A wonderful hub. When we see another person accused falsely or hurting, because of the cruelty or ignorance of another, we must stand up and speak out. Indifference should never be an option.'ve given us an important reminder that our indifference to God is something that most of us are guilty of.

Lori Colbo (author) from United States on December 18, 2015:

Dear gerimcclym, ther eis always hope and I hope I never forget to leave that out of anything, Thanks for stopping by. I am glad it touched you in some way. God bless.

Geri McClymont on December 18, 2015:

What a convicting article, but in a good way. Words I personally really needed to hear. I like how you end the article demonstrating how God still receives us with open arms, despite our shortcomings and past failures. Thank you for having the courage to write this powerful hub.

Aaron Rushing from USA- Florida on December 15, 2015:


Thanks for the punch in the Gut by showing me my indifference. I am going to repent now, as I stagger off all hunched over sucking air.

Love ya Lambservant


Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on November 17, 2015:

Such a great lesson Lori! Something many may never give thought to and something today I think we are witnessing, don't you? I know these are the days there is one group God especially tells us to help and I mind that one as good as I possible can!


Lori Colbo (author) from United States on July 23, 2015:

Back at ya humbled!

Humbled-T-Wade on July 23, 2015:

Lambservant, sorry I am late responding! I am so thankful for your fellowship! I need more people in my life that can help me to grow as a Christian! God Bless you abundantly, and in accordance with His will!

Lori Colbo (author) from United States on July 20, 2015:

LG, thank you for the affirmation of these truths! What a mighty and gracious God we serve!

William Kovacic from Pleasant Gap, PA on July 20, 2015:

Hi Lori,

I really liked your response to Humbled. Your information has to be a help to anyone who is truly seeking to please God. Life is full of temptation and yes, sin. Unfortunately that's who we are - sinners. But fortunately, that's the reason Jesus came to die - to save us. Sin is not something we should want to practice, but when we fall into it, thank God He's always there to stand us back up. Thanks again for the information.

Lori Colbo (author) from United States on July 19, 2015: says, "The full biblical definition of repentance is a change of mind that results in a change of action." You might try Luke 3:8-14; Acts 3:19; and Acts 26:20.

Lori Colbo (author) from United States on July 19, 2015:

Humbled, I am glad I could offer some help, but it is the Word and the Holy Spirit that is your greatest helper.

I would encourage you to study Revelation 3:14-20 in depth (the lukewarm church). You will see that this church thought they had it all together, they had wealth, and they were not able to see that they were spiritually bankrupt. They were to self confident and had no need for God. They didn't hate him, they just felt they didn't need him. He found it so nauseating, he wanted to vomit then out; but he had grace and mercy and love for them and gave them a chance to repent.

You have a good understanding of repentance. It is a change of heart, which leads to a change of direction - from sin to God. You'll get through this and overcome by God's grace. You are not lukewarm because you know you need him, you are aware of your sin, you grieve it and you are not too proud to call on God for help. If you slip up, it does not mean you are lukewarm unless you just don't care anymore, and worse, oblivious. Don't let the devil tell you this is too hard a sin to overcome. He's a liar with a capital L. God is truth and His word is truth.

Humbled-T-Wade on July 19, 2015:

I appreciate your response more than you could ever imagine. Some of these truths I have not heard and have been raised in church my entire life. It is astonishing the truths that are common knowledge to some and unknown to others. Satan is loving to torment me with tempting me in the mind at a very high rate, but only in particular spurts. When I fail, that is whenever I start feeling like I can't approach God. I know this to be a lie from the enemy now, because God wants our close relationship with Him. While practicing evil may destroy our fellowship in a sense, our relationship will never be hindered. If God would have condemned us to not have a relationship with Him any further, He wouldn't of asked Adam where he was in the garden. I am still learning what characteristics define a "lukewarm" Christian, and what the true definition of the word repentance is. I have always been told that is means to turn from sin, and in a sense it does. The definition is to change your mind. The Holy Spirit is at work in my life! God Bless you and I truly appreciate the in depth response. Also, your point about temptation not being a sin is groundbreaking for me, as this is common sense, but I have never perceived it that way. That helped me A LOT! I will find the Hub you are speaking of and read over it tomorrow.

God Bless you! Thank you for your time, it is appreciated beyond what words can describe. :)

Lori Colbo (author) from United States on July 19, 2015:

Also Humbled, remember, lukewarm means "I don't care," not sinning and wanting to overcome it. The Laodiceans were oblivious to their sin because they had become so complacent, they didn't even recognize it. That doesn't sound like your story at all.

Lori Colbo (author) from United States on July 19, 2015:

Humble, God bless you brother. Listen, the very fact that you are concerned and convicted about this sin, tells me you are anything but lukewarm. You know, we all have besetting sins. Those are certain sins we struggle with more than others. I have one or two myself.

Christ knows your struggle. Your struggle is not new to Him because we all have certain sins we struggle with that keep trying to rear their ugly head. Sometimes it's just our own sinful nature and other times it's a full on attack of the enemy. You told me you recommitted your life to Christ recently. Bingo! Satan is doubling his efforts now. His goal is to lie to you, accuse you, and tell you things like "What kind of Christian are you when you are tempted or committing this sin? You're going to hell if you do it again. God can't forgive you. You're a loser. Blah blah.

He's using a two by four over you and sometimes he will give it to you to take over and beat up on yourself. Here's my advice:

1. Read Ephesians 6:10-18. This is the spiritual warfare passage, called putting on the whole armor of God. Study and learn it and most importantly, apply it in your life.

2. Find a mature Christian man (a pastor, elder, is also okay), one you trust and share this struggle with him so he can pray with you. Prayer partners and mentor's are an amazing blessing from God. This man can be your accountability partner as well (real helpful I'm telling you). Ask him if he can disciple you. A good place to start is the sermon on the mount, but Ephesians 6 is good as well.

3. Get into a men's Bible study. Many churches have men's breakfasts where they study the word, fellowship, eat and pray.

4. Stay in the word daily and pray daily (which is part of Ephesians 6). It is crucial, because the more you know God's word, the better you will recognize Satan's lies. And prayer helps you grow closer to God and guided by His Holy Spirit. Satan will try to distract you, and any number of ploys. Make it your top goal every day. It's not how many hours you read and pray, it's your heart and your faithfulness to do it.

5. If there is something that brings this temptation to the forefront, such as hanging out with certain people, or in certain places, or having things in your possession that you need to get rid of. If it is just a sin that you think about and act on alone, it's a little more difficult.

6. Remember that temptation is not a sin. Christ was tempted in all things as we were, so that He can sympathize with our weaknesses. The thing with temptation is, when the temptational thought hits you, don't wine it and dine it. In other words, don't keep entertaining it in your mind; don't linger on it. This is really hard with certain sins, but there is NO sin that cannot be overcome because Christ is our all in all. Here are some other passages to read:

James 1, particularly verses 12-27.

1 Corinthians 10:13

Hebrews 4:14-16

1 John 1:9

Psalm 51 (David's prayer of repentance).

Psalm 91

Don't ever think God can't forgive you. I John 1:9 is not a sometimes verse. It's an every time verse. As long as you are grieving that sin and doing all the above things (and whatever else the Lord brings to your attention), you can overcome. You are in good hands, humble. The Lord loves you so much.

You know, Moses was a murderer, David committed adultery, Peter denied Christ, Jacob was a liar and conniver. Rahab was a prostitute, Matthew and Zachaeuss were tax collectors (dirty rotten scoundrels), and on an on, and God used every one of them by delivering them. And finally He became sin for us on the cross. and paid our debt.

You might find my hub about knowing the enemy and overcoming him helpful as well. I don't think I'm allowed to give you a link in the comments, but go to my profile page and scroll down and find it.

Keep me posted brother. God loves you and loves your heart. He's got your back. I will be praying for you.

Humbled-T-Wade on July 19, 2015:

Wow! Fabulous Hub! I almost came to tears as I read about how Jesus gives us a second chance each and every single day, just as He gave the Laodicean Church! What an awesome God we serve! LambServant, could I ask you a question? There is a sin that I feel that I have repented of, because I went from committing this sin every single day to completely washing it out. But then there are times that Satan comes knocking at my door and tempts me in the mind to the point of breakage. Sometimes I succumb to this sin, let's say at an average of once every 3 months. I am not practicing this sin, I just fail with it. I don't feel good after the sin, in fact, I tell Jesus that I deserve Hell because of my failure. I know that this isn't the case because of Jesus' sacrifice and my confession of His Lordship over my life. My question is: Will Jesus consider me lukewarm because of my failure in this area? I would assume not, because we are all sinful in nature and even if I succeed in stopping this sin, I could be committing other sins in the process.

Advice, comments, direction? (Sorry for the long comment)

Kathy Henderson from Pa on July 14, 2015:

Spot on fabulous Hub, I enjoyed every bit and the words are convicting for any who are open to the message of our King. Thank you for sharing!!!

Voted Up UP!

Faith Reaper from southern USA on July 13, 2015:

What an essential message here, dear Lori! Yes, the Me, Myself and I are running rampant in this world and you've brought it all home here with all of your spot-on examples. You have certainly provided much food for thought. I love your example of how Jesus' loves us and desires so much for us to have that intimate and personal relationship with Him. Communication takes two. Just imagine how this world would change if each and everyone of us really started taking the time to love one another.

Up ++++ tweeting, pinning, G+ and sharing

God bless you

Bronwen Scott-Branagan from Victoria, Australia on July 13, 2015:

What a great hub! Definitely voted this one up. It's so true. Know what you believe and believe what you know - especially about Jesus and Christianity, the very root of our being. So well said.

Lori Colbo (author) from United States on July 13, 2015:

Hi GarnetBird. So glad to see your face. I've missed you. Blessings.

Gloria Siess from Wrightwood, California on July 13, 2015:


Lori Colbo (author) from United States on July 13, 2015:

LG, I am sure convicted. I don't often write from a "I've got it aced," perspective. Thanks for stopping in.

William Kovacic from Pleasant Gap, PA on July 13, 2015:

Wow, Lori! I don't even know where to begin. You said it all. If we aren't convicted about the sin of indifference we better take a closer look. Thank you for addressing this topic, and making us all think (I hope).

Lori Colbo (author) from United States on July 12, 2015:

Thanks for the thumbs up VenkatachariM. I appreciate the share as well. Blessings.

Venkatachari M from Hyderabad, India on July 12, 2015:

Excellent story with a great message to all of us. Thank you, Lori, for this wonderful post.

Voted up and awesome. Sharing on G+

Lori Colbo (author) from United States on July 12, 2015:

Hello Dora, indifference is powerful and destructive! I found Elie Wiesels comments and his context very powerful as well! Always a pleasure to hear from you, dear friend!

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on July 12, 2015:

Lori, this article is powerful and timely. "It's called caring" and we must make time to care. Your illustrations including the Good Samaritan bring home the point of indifference very well. Great thoughts for us to consider.

Lori Colbo (author) from United States on July 12, 2015:

Thanks NW, I like your quote! I addressed the policeman church! Good example! Thanks for stopping by,

North Wind from The World (for now) on July 12, 2015:

Voted up, interesting, useful and awesome, Lori. In the case of indifference I always think of Jacob and Esau. I also think of the quote 'Silence is consent.' Then there is the Book of Revelation where God says to the Laodiceans that He will spit them out because they were lukewarm. When you are lukewarm you are indifferent! It is a grave sin and one that is so easy to do when we focus on self rather than others. If, however, we follow what Jesus says, that is, if we love God and love our neighbors as ourselves, then it will be impossible for us to be indifferent.

Lori Colbo (author) from United States on July 12, 2015:

Ann, strong words but true! Thank you for your comments!

Lori Colbo (author) from United States on July 12, 2015:

Eric, what an interesting comment that your space of indifference was a sort if hell! Could you be speaking of. The consequences of indifference? I'm glad you found your way back out! Gratitude refreshes the soul!

Billybuc, bingo!

Ann Carr from SW England on July 12, 2015:

Important message. Excellent writing.

Indifference is a killer.


Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on July 12, 2015:

The message is loud and care. If we act with indifference it is the same, in my mind, as intentionally causing harm to another person. We must...we must....start learning compassion and empathy, or none of us will survive.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on July 12, 2015:

Thank you for a wonderful article. After a bad struggle with indifference I now find myself in gratefulness for feeling,, anything. That space of uncaring limbo is it's own sort of hell.

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