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We Can’t Turn Away.

Have you seen the video of two little boys whose brother was just killed by a bomb in Syria?

It’s heart-breaking. It’s gut-wrenching. No one should have to experience that. I sobbed as I watched it.

Eugene Cho shared this video and said, “Human pain. I want to turn away but can’t. We can’t. It’s so very complicated and messy but we can’t turn away from the real human pain. To do so…would make us less human.”

For a long time I used to turn away. I hate to admit it, but even now there’s times where I just can’t watch. Or I just can’t hear about another bad thing. Or I just can’t see another injustice happen. What a privilege I have to choose to not feel pain.

But every time I make that choice I feel myself resort into myself a little bit more. I step a little bit farther away from humanity. Like Eugene says, I become a little less human.

Just because we don’t see or acknowledge something doesn’t mean it’s not there. And that’s the problem. When we turn away or refuse to see, we ignore people. Human souls who are hurting and situations that are not okay.

One of the most memorable scenes from a movie for me is in Hotel Rwanda. It’s about the genocide of the Tutsi people that occurred.

There’s an American journalist there filming and the Rwandan man tells him that he’s glad he’s filming so the world can see what’s happening and intervene. The journalist looks at him and basically says, is it still worth showing even if no one intervenes? The Rwandan replies, who would not intervene after witnessing such atrocities? And the journalist says this:

I think if people see this footage they’ll say, “oh my God that’s horrible,” and then go on eating their dinners.

I will never forget how I felt after I heard him say that. My stomach recoiled and I shook my head because I know it’s true.

When we are steeped in privilege, it’s too easy to turn away.

I am in no way a proponent of shoveling on guilt or exploiting other’s pain to make someone feel a certain way. But we can’t ignore the pain.

As an extremely empathetic and highly sensitive person  I am never short on feelings. Other’s feelings and emotions have a way of clinging to me and seeping into my soul if I let them. There’s a reason I have always wanted to avoid painful things or the “bad” type of feelings.

But we can’t. Like Eugene says, it makes us less human. When we turn away and refuse to see, we’re snipping that cord of connection that could be there to connect a girl in America to a little boy in Syria.

When we refuse to acknowledge black men being gunned down by police, we’re taking a step into our comfort zone and safety net and refusing to see.

That’s what privilege does to us. Whether it’s the privilege afforded to us because of our skin color, where we were born, our economic level or our gender…it blocks our ability to see. Not until we acknowledge it’s there and take a step outside of our comfort zone and limited perspective will we truly see.

We can’t be fully connected to each other and to humanity if we refuse to acknowledge each other’s pain.

We can’t be fully connected to each other and to humanity if we diminish other’s lived experiences with comments like, “yeah, that’s horrible” and “that sucks, but it’s all the way across the world.”

We can’t be fully connected to each other if we don’t listen. If we don’t hear each other’s stories and hear what it’s like to have a lived experience that doesn’t look like our own.

We can’t be fully connected to each other if we do not SEE each other.

The same God that made me, made you and that same God made a little Syrian boy…we all deserve the right to life, the right to live, the right to be affirmed and to be seen.

While I sit here and say don’t turn away, allow yourself to be fully human by acknowledging and feeling other’s pain, and see how we’re all connected I wish I had more concrete answers.

I do know it’s not okay. I do know I can’t turn away from other’s pain. I do know that is starts with seeing. It starts with acknowledging other’s lived experiences.

We may look, but are we truly seeing?

Turn Away from Pain

One thought on “We Can’t Turn Away.

  1. Thank you for writing this, Abby! Hotel Rwanda shook me up as well. It opened my eyes injustice in the world I formerly couldn’t even begin to comprehend. I’ve been thinking about this very same thing and I often feel bad for turning away.

    A big struggle I have is that I believe with knowledge comes responsibility, but do any of us have the resources of time, energy, money, etc. to actually make a dent in the problems? With technology, we are more aware than ever of injustice, but how do we determine what time we should give to situations, either in thought or action. I tend to be someone who tries to tackle every problem and then just gets discouraged because others don’t care as much as I do. That’s where the Holy Spirit must be our guide to show us where to put our energy and how to engage in what’s happening in the world.

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