Dehumanize and Desensitize

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I'm totally guilty of this. My tendency is to discredit someone if they bother me. Bad drivers, for instance. I really don't think of them as human beings. I'm not alone. I read something--somewhere--that noted: We find it much easier to fly off the handle when a car cuts us off than when a person walking in front of us does.


Because, typically, a person will notice their mistake and glance back at you. Often, you will note the apology on their face and drop it. But with cars, we don't see the face of the person. We don't get that flash of human connection. All we see is the giant ton of metal and plastic carelessly almost killing us. And what is responsible for that machine of death? Some thoughtless maniac behind the wheel.

I got to thinking about this after watching a brutal and awesome film over the weekend. As the hordes of enemies were quickly dispatched of, I cheered. They weren't human. But when one of the main characters was wounded, I felt the pain.

I propose, then, that our desensitization comes not from over-stimulation but dehumanization.

I love books with a clear villain. But I also love stories where I understand the bad guy. The best villains are the ones that make sense. We get it. We don't agree, but we understand.

I love that Sonlight's literature-rich programs contain so many human characters... both heroes and villains. We get the opportunity to consider the lives of others and decide how we will choose to live because of it.

May we not fall prey to dehumanizing others. Instead, may we all--me, especially--become sensitive to the people around us. May we see their humanity and not fixate on their actions.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Empty Nester

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  1. Annemarie

    I completely agree. My husband and I have had a similar discussion before, but relating it to our online activities. He frequents a few sports sites and sometimes comments and looks at the other commenters, who use screen names. I have often wondered if the people that make the comments about said coach or player, would make those same comments to them in person. Or, if they knew what that person was going through personally. For instance, a few years ago JD Drew of the Red Sox was having a really bad year. Every time he messed up I would think "Why do they keep that guy on the team?!" Later, my mom told me that his brand new baby had been born with a serious illness and he was dealing with the treatment schedule and trauma of that situation. It made me realize how much I *don't* know about those that I deal with from afar. Or sometimes even those I deal with briefly close up. It gives me a chance to show grace and give them the benefit of the doubt when something goes wrong.

    Thanks for the timely reminder to show sensitivity.


  2. The Reader

    Dittoing what Annemarie said. This can certainly apply to so many situations, on-line interactions one of them. May we all remember the human being behind the actions he/she/they are doing.

  3. Luke

    Thanks, Annemaire and Reader!