Posted On 2021-08-19 In Fratelli Tutti, Something to think about, Voices of Time

Does the pain of others move us?

By Dr. Eduardo Jurado Bejar, Ecuador •

As we watch what is happening in Venezuela, Haiti, Afghanistan, sub-Saharan Africa and I wonder if it moves us. —

If something moves us, it means that it bothers us, worries us, changes us. It moves us toward someone or something; it means that it hits us at an emotional level.

Erich Fromm pointed out that love and solidarity — if genuine — are universal. He said that if someone loves a human being, he or she also loves humanity.

Solidarity is a part of our genetic makeup as a guarantee for the survival of our species. And from the perspective of our Christian reality, this is a taken up as a moral issue and a virtue. It is not, therefore, a superficial feeling about the bad things that happen to people who are close by or far away. On the contrary, it is the firm determination and perseverance to act for the common good, that is, the good of each person so that we can all be truly responsible for one another.

It is possible to be insensitive to the suffering of many and, at the same time, to be very sensitive to the pain of a few in a specific moment. There is empirical evidence of the existence of a certain degree of emotional distance that is accompanied by a demonstrably insensitive attitude to faraway misfortune.

Being insensitive to the suffering of others who are “far away” is our hidden defense mechanism that manifests itself in different ways: remaining indifferent to the need or someone’s request for help; or distancing oneself from the call to action to do something.

“What is more, caught up as we are with our own needs, the sight of a person who is suffering disturbs us. It makes us uneasy, since we have no time to waste on other people’s problems. These are symptoms of an unhealthy society. A society that seeks prosperity but turns its back on suffering.” (Pope Francis, Fratelli Tutti, 65).

Like Pope Francis, I ask: Does human pain move me?


Original: Spanish. Translation: Sarah-Leah Pimentel, Cape Town, South Africa

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