You may be familiar with the story of the frog and the boiling water. Here’s a recap: “Urban myth has it that if you put a frog in a pot of boiling water it will instantly leap out. But if you put it in a pot filled with pleasantly tepid water and gradually heat it, the frog will remain in the water until it boils to death. Allegedly, the frog is not able to detect the gradual increase in temperature until it’s too late.”
Can we agree that these are very intense times? There are so many changes to deal with, some rather sudden and others that just seem to go on and on. That image of frogs in the boiling water can clarify what is often true in human nature: we react immediately and strongly when something wrong, dangerous or unhealthy is brought to our attention, especially when it conflicts with one of our life values. We often then go to extreme measures to stop it.
By contrast, when things once considered unacceptable, shocking and/or immoral gradually seep into our culture, we don’t have this sudden surge of energy to demand that these things are halted or addressed. Consider how many words, once considered indecent, now are part of our culture, especially in the movie industry and even on television shows like Netflix.
It is as if we have become so desensitized that we lose or at least downgrade our moral compasses, and like the frog we can boil to death. It is virtually impossible to go back to the way things once were.
Let’s consider some of the underlying reasons for this gradual loss of our moral compasses. Perhaps complacency is one reason. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines complacency as “marked by self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies.” Another could be apathy or a lack of feeling, numbness.
Other possibilities could be anxiety and fear that prevent rational thinking, or information overload and the resulting mental paralysis to sort through, organize and make sense of it. Being overwhelmed by all the choices, unsure what the best one is, and not wanting to miss out on something because we chose something else. Have you ever felt paralyzed when channel surfing or media surfing that morphs into an hour or more?
Many of us have experienced a loss of hope, of the belief things could be better, or that we will be safe, both physically and emotionally. There can be a sort of emotional exhaustion. How do we ever sift through it all? How tired we can get from dealing with all our feelings. Many of us are disillusioned, have lost our trust in systems created to monitor and maintain society values that instead fail miserably at their missions. What else prevents us from taking action and standing up for our values?
I think pausing to ask ourselves some tough questions. Have our senses have been dulled? Have we lost our way morally? Are we no longer honoring our values? Have we shut down our focus on critical thinking and careful consumerism and let others make the important choices for us?
To effectively prevent and/or address the dulling of our senses, it can be worthwhile to make a list of what we value and in what order and then ask ourselves how those values are being demonstrated in our lives. We can also focus on what values are being compromised by cultural or societal changes gradually imposed on us.
By taking time to examine our core values and the extent to which we each are making them the guides for how we think and behave, we can keep focused on what is truly important to us. This can make us less likely to have our senses dulled by gradual, sometimes sneaky forms of change. We can remain personally accountable to ourselves and passionate about what we value. Being values-focused can prevent and address possible dulling of our senses and the chance of slipping into attitudes, beliefs and behaviors that run counter to what we established is important to us. As a result, we can keep our moral compasses shiny and in good working order!
Invitation for Reflection will
- How aware are you of your life values and their hierarchy?
- In what ways over the last few days/weeks/months/years have you demonstrated the manifestation of one or more of these values?
- What are some ways to honor your values in the future to protect yourself from having them dulled as we deal with the many changes we are experiencing?