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  • Andre Lamartin

On Sensitivity

Sensitive is the heart that easily understands another as well as himself. Communication lines rarely breakdown amid conversations marked by mutual emotional understanding, when there is a clear delineation of the invisible boundaries that restrain comments and questions pertaining to sensitive issues, some of which may not even be entirely germane. The needs of another are always taken into account, as questions chisel away a past personal history involving joyful or painful memories that remain.

Warmth and empathy play just as important a role as comfortable silence, never to be used in vain. Knowing what not to ask alleviates another's pain just as much as knowing what to say. When sensitive issues are involved, a minefield of painful memories must be defused or averted so unexpected emotional outbursts are avoided. This is why sensitive people are the best of friends. This is how true love may over a desperate heart finally reign.

Sensitive words illuminate even the most impenetrable darkness, offering a modicum of solace at a trying time. They ease past sorrows by rationalizing experiences that previously lacked any compelling justification, offering the companionship of someone who sincerely cares, someone who would never manipulate a desperate heart in silent despair. More than simply lifting one's spirit, these exchanges in our memories remain, creating bonds of affection, trust and loyalty, relied on again and again. This is the friend I was to all loved ones met along life's occasionally tortuous way. This is the kind of woman I hoped to meet some day, albeit in vain.

Whatever strengths my former girlfriend once had, sensitivity was never one. She bulldozed over other people's feelings with questions meant to satisfy her curiosity at their expense. She sought chinks in the emotional armor of loved ones so that she could know where to strike again and again. Despite incessant pleadings and reprimands, she simply could not understand how her words and actions adversely affected those in times of pain.

No matter how many times I apologized to others on her behalf, she simply could not control that searing whip she called a tongue. Her attempt at consoling a desperate young mother who had recently lost a baby was to remind her of all the time and money the grieving mother would save by not raising a child. Insensitive people always leave a calling card, but how they answer the phone largely depends on their fickle interests and irascible emotional disposition at any given time. Emotional outbursts notwithstanding, insensitivity can drain you to the point of rendering a sensitive person just as emotionally obtuse over time.

Contagion is the most serious problem of dealing with the insensitive. In emotional duels dressed as conversations, a victorious party is in no way superior to the vanquished one, if insensitivity carries the day. Annihilating insensitivity with more insensitivity only brings about a bridge of distant deafening silence leading to a breakdown of the friendship or relationship. This may seem like a defensible strategy for those desiring to part ways, but having a distant vindictive silent enemy is hardly preferable to having a friend or an acquaintance. Life is sometimes unpredictable, and one hardly knows when paths may cross again. Simply discounting the wisdom of the Sermon on the Mount is never advisable. Sensitivity is in large measure an application of the gospel to ordinary life, be it the love for your enemy, your neighbor or yourself.

Sensitivity is a measure of emotional maturity, personal fortitude and character strength, not a weakness to be disposed of in return for a violent resolution to a momentary disagreement or occasional offense. This demands great patience, but a conciliatory diplomatic tone may transform a distant enemy into a close friend. Sensitivity provides a clarity of vision that may lead others to acknowledge their own personal fallibility, and atone for past mistakes, while making a sincere effort to change. This requires the clear understanding of another as well as yourself; this requires a sensitive heart whose value no one can tell.

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