The Myopic Mindset

Below is a hand-written card by an early adolescent given to a brother and sister in his church youth ministry that have recently suffered the tragic death of their mother:

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(Hey guys, sorry about your loss. You are great friends. _________ P.S. I know this isn’t what you wanted for Valentines Day.)

Upon first glance we would immediately think that though this card stems from good intentions, it sends a message that shows a lack of empathy and a shallow perspective on the horrible valley his friends find themselves in.

But at the same time we have to be careful of not attacking or judging the young boy for his card or lack of empathy based on his developmental stage. Finding the divine patterns of our human makeup, theorists have discovered within young people an “egocentric point of view.” This doesn’t necessarily mean they are self-centered, but that they lack the capacity to see things from another perspective (i.e. the ability to empathize with a friend who has lost their mother.)

It is obvious from this boy’s perspective, the loss of his mom would be a real “bummer” and ruin his Valentines Day. Yes, this is shallow, but it is merely a reflection of his thinking stage and the difficulty for him to see things from a different vantage point (as the cognitive process of “differentiation” is also at play here).

When we are aware of developmental factors it allows us to approach people in various stages with grace and patience, while helping them transition to the next stage of maturity.

However, we know that inconsiderate statements revealing a lack of empathy don’t stop when one reaches adulthood.  There are areas of hindered development in all of us based on our own personal experiences and degree of discipline towards growth.  When adults make shallow or narrow remarks that show a lack of maturity, how should we approach them?  With an air of judgment or with a mood of grace and patience, coaching them towards the next level of spiritual maturity?  And if the choose not to be open to growth?

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~ by Dave Smith on February 14, 2009.

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