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Are We Desensitized to Joy?
Mom with a View

Are We Desensitized to Joy?

Have you ever complained about receiving too many wedding and bar mitzvah invitations?


Everyone laments the violence today – on the big screen, the television and in computer games. It has desensitized us to the reality of violence and its destructiveness impacts our very essence.

We’re also upset by the sexual immorality depicted in these same formats. It desensitizes us to the real potential and ability for intimacy. We avoid vulnerability and mask our inner selves.

Additionally the streets of all major cities in America are filled with the homeless – begging and sleeping on the sidewalks outside our homes. We are desensitized to poverty and mental illness. Their constant unwashed presence and their non-stop requests for money alienate us from their humanity and callous our souls.

We are desensitized in so many ways. And recently I have discovered an unexpected and new aspect of this phenomenon.

We are desensitized to joy. We get so many invitations to so many different simchas that we no longer appreciate them. We have a hard time involving ourselves in someone else’s happiness and celebration, which eventually impacts our ability to appreciate the good even in our own lives.

Instead of rejoicing as the wedding invitations pile up, instead of marveling at the constant hope and renewal of the Jewish people despite the external threats, we complain. “I’m so busy.” “I’m too tired.” “Do I really have to go?”

A few years ago when one of my daughters got married, one of the invited guests wrote the following on the rsvp card: “I won’t be able to make this one but I’m sure that since you have so many children I’ll make one eventually.” As if my children were interchangeable and their individual experiences irrelevant.

This response may epitomize the desensitized attitude. What makes violence less troubling is the sheer (and unremitting) amount of it. Perhaps the same is true of joy. We’ve gotten used to it. The Almighty have blessed us with so much joy that we no longer appreciate the gift.

And we’ve lost track of individuality. Video games allow us to mow down rows of “people” with machine gun fire, robbing the fictional victims of any semblance of uniqueness and this has become our attitude and perspective.

The birth of this child is the same as the birth of their older sibling. I went to the first bris; wasn’t that enough? If you’ve been to one wedding, you’ve been to them all.

Yet if we take a step back we recognize that’s certainly not how we feel about our own children – and definitely not how the Almighty feels about His.

Each bris, bas mitzvah, graduation, wedding, grandchild is a unique and special gift – and an opportunity for celebration and appreciation.

When your next invitation comes in the mail, greet it with excitement.

Whatever the joyous occasion, the steps that brought this particular person to this particular moment were the the same as those for their brother or sister or your son or daughter. We understood this with the Down syndrome couple I wrote about a few weeks ago because the situation was so dramatic. But it’s true of every human being.

All of the types of desensitization are really the same. Other people aren’t quite real to us – and ultimately, with this attitude, we aren’t quite real to ourselves. We’ve lost sight of the gift of life, of our unique potential, of our Divine connection. If we understood the unique holiness of every human being, we would be avidly searching for it, not turning the other way. We wouldn’t make the mistake of assuming that individuals are interchangeable.

It may be too late for the violence or the promiscuity or the poverty (although I certainly hope not) but perhaps it’s not too late for the joy.

When your next invitation comes in the mail, greet it with excitement. Marvel at the opportunity. Be grateful to be a part of it. As the world darkens around us, these moments of joy are very precious indeed.

July 19, 2014

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Visitor Comments: 13

(8) Sharon, July 29, 2014 4:48 PM

worded incorrectly

The friend's RSVP could have been worded differently. For instance, "Unfortunately we can't make this simcha, but will be happy to celebrate future smachot with your wonderful family."
This is probably what she meant. Of course, she may be envious of your many smachot if she has none of her own, in which case the less said the better.

(7) Anonymous, July 25, 2014 8:42 PM

So true

This is excellent and so true! Thank you so much for posting this!

(6) Jaya, July 25, 2014 1:38 AM

Desensitization to joy .

Wonderfully put , the curse of abundance ! We have far too much of material stuff to value that which brings joy , simple things of life and celebrations in the lives of others .

(5) Nachamah, July 24, 2014 3:15 PM

I have been complaining about the same thing for years

When I hear people complaining that they have three simchos in one night and how difficult it is, I always wonder what a Holocaust survivor would have thought if they heard you saying that in 1947. People take simchos for granted and forget how precious they are.

Nancy, July 25, 2014 11:29 AM

To commenter #5 Nachamah--You make an excellent point. However, if I were invited to three simchos in one night I would find that to be difficult. Knowing myself as I do, I would look at the invitations and wish that I could split myself up in three pieces to be at the simchot simultaneously! I'm not being facetious here. I think the answer is to appreciate every simcha, but realize that we cannot always be physically present each time we are invited to a particular simcha. If we can't be present, then we can call the family and send a gift.

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