How to Be a Sensitive Soul in Today’s World
by Michael Desgrosseilliers
God created us to be sensitive creatures. Sensitivity is a gift, but—as many of us are discovering in today’s world of strong emotions, particularly fear and anxiety—a sensitive heart needs to be protected.
The apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 6:2, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (NKJV). The ability within us to be sensitive and to bear another’s burdens is synonymous with being a Christian. The gifts God created us with are irrevocable (Rom. 11:29), but one person might be more gifted in a certain way than another person. In other words, some of us are more sensitive than others. The more we come to understand our level of sensitivity, the more we can understand what “burdens” to take on, how much of them we can carry, how long we need to carry them, and where we need to take them—ultimately to God.
In these increasingly difficult times, we need to be especially aware of our sensitivity and protect our heart accordingly.
How Sensitive Are You?
Here’s an example of being a very sensitive person.
At any given time, there can be a lot of people at a mall who are frustrated, angry, sad, or wrestling with a host of other negative feelings in their life. Many—especially young people—flee to the mall to escape difficulties in their home. When you go to a mall (or a similar location where there are many lost people), do you start feeling exhausted in a short time? Do you leave the mall “dragging your knuckles” or feeling angry, frustrated, depressed, or otherwise negative?
You don’t have to take these feelings upon yourself—because they are not yours!
All of us are surrounded by a constant reality spoken of in Ephesians 2:2: “According to the prince of the power of the air.” That prince is Satan. His negative and evil messages fill the air waves all around us. When we come into contact with someone who is struggling with negative emotions, we don’t need to pick up and start wearing those emotions as if they were our own. Those emotions will defile us if we allow them to “attach” themselves to us.
We need to learn how to recognize what’s happening around us and how negative feelings can get into our consciousness—into our thoughts and beliefs. Whatever measure of sensitivity we have, do we recognize it? Do we ignore it or try to bury it? Do we know how to walk in it?
Most important, is our gift of sensitivity redeemed, so God can use it the way He intends?
How Did Our Parents Respond to Our Sensitivity When We Were Children?
Whether or not we live in the measure of sensitivity we were created with depends on many factors. One critical element is if we were told about, instructed in, encouraged in, and validated in our sensitivity. This comes primarily from our parents and can occur throughout our life (but especially in our childhood).
Train up a child in the way that he should go [in his or her bent], and when he is old [comes of age] he will not depart from it. (Prov. 22:6)
When we become independent adults, and we see and feel the troubling things happening around us, what are we to do? If we’ve never been given instruction in dealing with the feelings that result from our God-given sensitivity, we can become desperate to avoid them; we just aren’t equipped to deal with the painful feelings that can arise from our sensitivity.
Again, we were created to be sensitive human beings. Every person has a level of sensitivity they were designed to have, and we will feel what is happening in our environment according to the level of sensitivity God gave us. How we react to what we feel will ultimately determine the effects and results in our life.
What Does Unrealized Sensitivity Look Like?
Here are a few common reactions when we aren’t using our gift of sensitivity the way God intends.
- We bury the feelings and live in denial.
The most common reaction to painful feelings is to bury them quickly. We essentially stick our head in the sand. A popular idiom says, “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.” We can end up in a level of denial regarding the troubling things that are upsetting our sensitivity.
- We become overly focused on the pain.
Another common reaction is to dwell on the negative feelings. We take on the pain of all the troubles around us and become more and more depressed and hopeless.
- We distract ourselves from the pain.
Many people try to distract themselves from the pain by numbing their sensitivity. They could turn to alcohol, drugs, movies, and other addictions to temporarily “dull” what they’re feeling.
When we’re unable to deal with the troubles in our world, we can become progressively more and more hopeless and develop an ever-increasing negative expectation.
How Can We Respond Positively to Painful Feelings?
Here are two simple ways we can react positively when we sense negative feelings.
- We can put the cross between ourselves and the source of the negativity.
One way we can prevent these feelings from affecting us negatively is by putting our shield up. We erect a barrier to protect our heart, mind, and spirit from the negative feelings coming from others and the atmosphere around us.
For me, my “shield” is the cross of Jesus. Whenever I sense negative feelings, I place the cross between me and the source of the negativity. If it’s a person, I have compassion for them, but I will not take on the negativity, because it is defiling. (The cross of Jesus blocks only the negative feelings, not my connection with the person.)
- We can take the negative feelings to God.
When we sense negative feelings, one key response is to take them to God. Matthew 11:28–30 speaks of how to live as a sensitive person:
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.
With all the heaviness, fear, hopelessness, and despair in today’s world, the most important question we must address is this: “Is this a burden God wants me to carry?” If we sense the answer is yes, we will be able to carry it well. That is, the burden will be appropriate.
If the answer is no, we can give it to God and not carry it at all. If we try to carry what is not appropriate for us, we will eventually collapse under the weight, but if we are equally yoked with Jesus (carrying our share of the burden), we are able to do it as long as it is needed and required.
Many people are struggling emotionally in this season because they are sensitive and have taken on negative feelings from the people and atmosphere around them. Yes, there are real struggles in the world, but we are equally yoked with Jesus, and we have the means to give Him everything that is too heavy for us.