I Don’t Care, and You Don’t Have to Make Me

I often see myself as a terrible, heartless person, especially in relation to my Christian faith. I am not interested in most people; I don’t enjoy them simply because they exist. I care deeply for the people in my life, the people that I actually know and communicate with. But when it comes to strangers, be they next door or across the globe, I am utterly indifferent. I certainly do not wish bad things upon them—I just don’t have any feelings for whatever they may be experiencing.

I get down on myself for that pretty often, thinking that it makes me a horrible person not to feel sorry for people, and that I would care more about them if only I were a decent human being.

Then, during my morning devotions, I realized that God does not command us to have specific feelings. He commands us to do things. How we feel about them is largely irrelevant. For example, Joshua 1:9 commands us “Be strong and courageous!” but courage usually involves action in spite of feelings of fear.

Christians are supposed to pray for each other, bear each other’s burdens, give to the poor, encourage each other, worship God, put others’ needs before ours, and flee from sin and temptation. None of that requires specific emotions to be involved. Some feelings may make those actions easier or more difficult. But the feelings themselves do not change what God has commanded us to do or not to do.

How I feel about a thing is less important than what I do about it. This realization has been very freeing. If I pray for someone without being emotionally invested in the consequences, or if I give money to a worthy cause without feeling any passion for that cause, I have done no less than what I should. It’s not how I feel, but what I do, that is good or bad.

A friend of mine asked me to pray for a family that she knows and I do not. This family is in a difficult situation, but emotionally, I feel nothing for them. I don’t know them, I don’t have any experience with what they are going through, and from what I can see, the outcome is unlikely to make any difference in my life. I can, of course, see how it is traumatizing for them, and I can hope that things end happily. If I wished otherwise, that would be heartless. But as things stand now, I have no emotional investment in their situation, and no feelings riding on the outcome.

. . .

Even in the absence of any feelings, however, as a Christian, I should still pray for needs that come to my attention. I still ought to pray for that family, not because I feel like it, or because I feel anything for them, but because God commands us to pray for others, because He hears our prayers, and because it matters to Him. I may never be emotionally invested, but I don’t have to be, and that doesn’t make me a bad person. If I ignored a need and did not do what I know I could, that would be sinful.

I think C.S. Lewis sums this up quite nicely. (Doesn’t he always?) In a letter to a friend who was being confirmed, he said:

Caveat [let her beware!]—don’t count on any remarkable sensations, either at this or your first (or fifty first) Communion. God gives these or not as He pleases. Their presence does not prove that things are especially well, nor their absence that things are wrong. The intention, the obedience, is what matters.

In Romans 12, Paul writes to “rejoice with those who rejoice” and “mourn with those who mourn.” I doubt he is trying to tell us that we must experience specific sensations. Even if you cannot drum up a certain feeling for something, you can at least recognize why others do. Maybe you’re not sad about the death that your friend is mourning over, but you can at least understand why it is painful, and provide for your friend in their time of need. You may not feel happiness for something a friend is happy about, but you can acknowledge it and not discourage it (and squash any envy).

This allows one to rejoice or mourn as needed, without necessarily having feelings about it.

(Such is the life of a Christian INTJ in a world teeming with Fs.)

7 thoughts on “I Don’t Care, and You Don’t Have to Make Me

  1. As an F-type person, I actually resonate with a lot of this. I find it particularly true with things like worship, which may or may not click on an emotional level on any given day, and are generally less effective anyway when I try really hard to figure out if I’m having “situationally appropriate feelings” about them. Come to think about it, emphasizing having the right feelings about stuff (though it is definitely nice when it does happen) makes most of these situations about us rather than about the people we are helping or praying for or whatever. And that seems counterproductive.

    • That trying too hard to have the right feelings “makes most of these situations about us rather than about the people we are helping” is an excellent point. Isn’t that what love and self-denial are really about: focusing on the other person without consideration for how it affects us?

  2. Hello! I just recently found your blog (not by searching, “Josh Groban is handsome”, though I absolutely think he is!) when searching for other INTJ women’s thoughts on children/babies. After a binge-reading of about 10 of your posts, I have concluded that we are long lost sisters of some sort, as I was laughing out loud at many of the thoughts you expressed that mirror exact things I have said or thought! Aaaaand…. we both seem to have slight (or not so slight) obsessions about so many of the same fiction books, series/worlds, characters, and all things British. Seriously, I think we would “geek out” for weeks on end discussing, and gushing, about our favorites (don’t even get me started on Tom Hiddleston!). I wonder if it is a typical INTJ women’s trait, our lives being so cerebral, to easily get sucked into a fictional world or love a fictional character, when it is so hard for us to, typically, obtain closeness with someone in real life (though once we let someone in, we are very vulnerable and love completely, even though it may not be very outwardly apparent to all)? But, I digress…

    I just wanted to say that I appreciate all the humor in our blog, the spot-on GIFs (that involve many of my fav characters or series), and especially, I am glad to have found another modern, INTJ woman who is also (gasp!) a Christian. It’s nice to know that there is another person like me out there: young-ish (I am in my early 30’s), bibliophile, INTJ Christian woman. I believe God gave each of us our personalities for a reason, and we are to be who He created us to be. I was challenged and encouraged by what you said in this post, about how it isn’t our “feelings” that matter; it’s about the actions I choose. My natural INTJ tendencies shouldn’t supersede how God is calling me to act… even if I can’t change how I feel. :) Great insight! Thanks for writing; I am your newest subscriber!

    -Kendra

    • Honestly, I cannot tell you how happy your comments have made me. I wish we could have tea together and talk about Tom Hiddleston and Josh Groban (and…so much else).

  3. I’m a new reader of your blog and can relate to a lot of your post even though I am an INFP. I understand not having much of an emotional response for people that I don’t know. I have a friend who is always asking me to pray for distant people and their situations. These are people that she has not even met but heard about on the internet or through other people. My first inclination is “Why, I don’t know them and we will probably never cross paths. There is nothing I can do for them.” However, God does tell us to pray for the needs of others, not just for the people we know and care about. I can say quick prayer (more like a silent prayer) for these people and move on.

    • Thank you for commenting. Yes, what you described is pretty much how I approach praying for distant strangers. I mean, what else CAN you do?

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