For someone who, as a liberal, is supposed to be so much more enlightened and compassionate than the general population, the commenter showed herself to be remarkably stupid. "Being left out of a conversation" was not the issue. That was a synecdoche for being left out of life, in fact, being put in danger oneself. You have no idea what it is like not to hear warnings like fire or smoke alarms or sirens. Not being able to casually pick up in the background from television or another conversation a piece of news that might change your special plans or your established routine, information that might save endless delays or even a life. Not knowing what in the world you doctor is telling you at your checkup. All these things and so much more the hearing world takes for granted. That comment was completely unsympathetic to the needs of the deaf.
If you think it was uncommon, you have not been deaf or lived with a deaf person as I have. This has been going on far longer than Covid 19. A deaf friend told us about the time many years ago when she was in someone's way in an aisle at the grocery store without realizing it. Evidently the other shopper had tried the usual, "Excuse me," several times because when she finally put her hand on our friend's arm, her aggravation was apparent.
"I'm so sorry," our friend said, "but I am deaf and did not hear you," and instantly moved out of the way. The woman was embarrassed but rather than apologize herself, acted like it was our deaf friend's fault. We have found that the general reaction to not having heard someone is that you must be either rude or stupid. No one ever thinks you might be deaf.
And the treatment we have received in doctor's offices the past few months has been no better. Nurses have been rude and officious when I insist on going into the exam room with my husband so I can hear for him, no matter how calmly or politely I phrase it. In fact, one acted like he had become deaf on purpose just so he could cause her trouble!
It isn't the lack of sympathy that we are seeing, though. It is the lack of empathy. Keith says that he can be sympathetic, but he is not sure he can be empathetic. I beg to differ. He may not know exactly how someone feels who is experiencing something he never has, but he always treats their feelings as valid. Not many others do.
I noticed this when the "Me Too" movement started. While I am just as worried as anyone else about unscrupulous women who might use this new ability to talk about these things openly to ruin a good man's reputation, that doesn't mean that what millions of women have gone through is not true. I sat in a Bible class of 9 women and 4 of them—that's nearly half for the math-challenged—had a story to tell. We were all "of a certain age," and the events had happened when it was not considered acceptable to report them, especially if you needed the job, or the grade, or any number of other things. For a man to disregard these stories just because the women didn't turn the men in, shows yet more lack of empathy. They had not been through it with the cultural baggage that was laid on women in those times, so "it just can't be." Yes, it can. When you dismiss the experiences in the context of the culture at the time and the effects on another person's attitudes or life, you are dismissing them. You just. Don't. Get it. Some of the statements and attitudes I have seen from even my own brethren, instantly vilifying people from other cultures or life experiences simply because they are different from theirs, horrifies me. That is what Romans 14 is all about, and what they don't realize is that God expects us to "get it."
For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. (1Cor 9:19-23).
You see, the ultimate purpose of our empathy is to gain lost souls. If I do not recognize what other people have gone through, what they are bringing to the table as cultural baggage, or the kind of life they have led previously, or the way they were brought up, I will never be able to reach them. If I am not regularly practicing the kind of empathy that, while it might not be able to feel the exact emotions of the affected person, at least treats them as real and valid, I won't be able to "turn it on" when it really matters—when a soul can be lost if I don't. That patronizing little smile is insulting, not flattering. That brush-off of an answer is infuriating, not comforting. People know when you are truly trying to reach them where they stand and when you are simply too arrogant to consider their backgrounds and emotions real and worth the trouble.
The Lord thought we were worth the trouble. He did what it took so he could "get it." Are you a disciple who follows in the Master's footsteps or not?
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Heb 4:15-16).
I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome (Rom 1:14-15).