see a lot of apathy when I'm working with teenagers, and I see
more of it when I'm teaching high school than when I'm
teaching college. The high school kids very often
haven't seen any practical importance in anything they're
doing, so many of them truly don't care about the classes
they're in or the world in which they live. This not
caring leads them to squander many great opportunities--not
learning material in a certain class, not taking advantage of
a particularly gifted teacher, not pursuing chances that arise
in their lives.
can certainly sympathize with apathetic people, for it's very
easy to be caught in cycles that don't allow us to see the
importance of certain things in life, or that cause us to feel
that most of what we do is pretty pointless, anyway.
After all, when even a close election is decided by a couple of
million votes, it can be difficult to see the significance in
voting. And when we read about the wars and the economic
crises and the graft and corruption among politicians, it can
make us feel pretty powerless, pretty insignificant.
The problem, though, is that apathetic people tend to see their
"uselessness" or "hopelessness" in a very broad
sense--they see how they affect (or don't affect) the entire world, and
they lose their focus on the effects that they can have within their own
sphere of influence. They don't see how simple actions can have
very positive effects on themselves, their friends, their co-workers, or
even strangers on the street.
we define "apathy" for ourselves, I think that we
would come up with many different definitions. To the
hyperactive workaholic, even some active people may be
considered apathetic, while the moderately active person may
see the bar as being a bit lower. But the main gist of
the word seems to be a state of not caring, of not finding
enthusiasm or hope or excitement about anything in our minds
or in our hearts or in our spirits. The apathetic person
simply seems not to care about anything, and seems to be fine
letting life go by without making any of his or her own
contributions to it.
if I'm apathetic, then I'm not creating conditions in which I
learn. After all, our most effective and most important
learning comes when we've taken actions and we learn from the
results of those actions, be the results positive or negative,
what we hoped for or what we hoped to avoid. A lack of
action keeps us from learning very important lessons.
also keeps us from forming alliances and feeling connections
to our fellow human beings. Apathy tends to be a lonely
state, one that keeps us from doing what we can to help
others, and that keeps us from asking others for help.
unfortunately, our apathy keeps us from making a positive mark
or three on the world in our own unique ways. If I don't
care about things, I'm not going to volunteer my time to help
other people. If I don't care, I'm not going to
challenge myself to make things better. If I'm
apathetic, it's very easy to simply sit on the couch and
passively experience the entertainment that's been created by
people who have taken action and who have pursued their
while it's tempting to look at apathy as simply a personal
problem, the fact is that it's a societal problem that's
incredibly dangerous. Apathy is one of those traits that
can damage people and systems like almost nothing else can,
simply through the inaction of apathetic people in times when
action is called for. And unfortunately, we seem to be
teaching our young people to be less and less concerned with
societal issues and more and more concerned about personal
issues and personal gratification.
is a quality that makes people very frustrated--have you ever
tried to drum up interest among a group of people who just
don't care? And when apathetic people get together, they
tend to feed off each other, supporting each other's ideas
that what they do doesn't matter. For people who are
trying to be active and get important things done, apathy can
be an obstacle greater than laws, an often-insurmountable
mountain over which they're unable to move.
apathetic people whom I've known have convinced themselves
that what they do doesn't matter. They've talked
themselves into believing that other people don't care about
them or what they do. They're fully convinced that even
if they do act, their actions will have no effect on others or
on the world. Perhaps the best way to approach apathy is
by trying to convince the apathetic person that their actions
do matter, maybe by taking every opportunity we can to thank
them for something that they've done, telling them that it has
had a positive effect on us.
the best way for us to deal with apathy is through caring
enough to convince the apathetic people that they're wrong
when they think that what they do just doesn't matter.
Life Fully, with my thanks for the permission to publish.