I love good questions; both answering them, and hearing others thoughtfully try. I have often asked, “what is your greatest fear?” For the longest time, I considered mine to be letting down someone who depends on me; someone who trusts me and should trust me… But another has pervaded my thought.
I now think what scare me most is something more subtle and much more personal. It happens inside our minds and by our own choice. Put simply, it is desensitization. Whether to sin, to the present, or any other good thing, it is what allows us to act in opposition to deeper, truer understanding.
Desensitization is a process. Just as self-discipline is like a muscle that strengthens with consistent use, every single time we perform below what we truly desire, we lower our threshold for what we find satisfactory. Over time, what we once held in high esteem becomes negatable. Through many tiny offenses to our sense of purpose or our moral code, we become desensitized.
Desensitization is weakness. One bad choice makes it easier to follow up with more choices that you know you will regret later. The process of desensitization stands in oppositions to the process of strengthening self-will through exerting initiative, and one of these processes is always working. It sets us apart. You will find that the most intrinsically powerful people you know of are function on the high side of the spectrum. They have learned to recognize the danger in the small things where they are prone to rationalize, and they have learned to hold to a higher standard.
The idea that we can reach a pre-determined point and stay there is a myth. It’s not enough to aim for the minimum threshold with which we are comfortable because in our fallen state, we will make mistakes, and occasionally underachieve. If we are not actively trying to improve, we are falling backwards. It may be so gradual as to be practically incomprehensible, but if not caught, the tragedy can be limitless.
It is difficult to recognize where we have become latent. We teach ourselves to either heed or disregard the conscience of our subconscious over a lifetime. To ignore the slightest sensation that something is wrong, facilitates the eventual feeling that nothing is wrong, which is why it is so difficult to recognize that you began ignoring it the first place! To wake up to the error of your ways requires intense introspection, perceptivity, or a strong—often painful—stimulus.
Desensitization is the process by which we take our blessings for granted. It contributes to every rationalization or excuse we make.
I wrote this as a missionary is Lousiana shortly after hurricane Harvey devastated the area. At the time we were involved in relief efforts mucking out houses and I thought of this principle:
5 Sep. 2017 – “I have so missed hard, dirty work. Give me a claw hammer and I am the happiest person in the world. It is so fun! We go in, hug the crying homemakers, yessir the stressed homeowners, and the remaining 8 hours our attention is turned to ruined carpet, drywall, flooring, insulation, refrigerators, etc. Pretty much we go into soaked houses and rip out everything within a foot of the water line. Simple right? Well, it would be if it was your typical sweet and toothy swamp water. Unfortunately it’s busted septic systems, and dead hogs, armadillos and pit bulls. Being the first work crews in, they say it hasn’t even started to stink. It’s all good though cause in a couple minutes you can”t smell anything. So as I sat among friends, thoroughly enjoying a brisket sandwich, I pondered this phenomenon, that when I first walked into this room, my olfactory faculties were telling me this environment was not conducive to continuing life, but now I was chilling eating lunch here. An application came to mind because for all things there is a spiritual parallell: When we begin to sin, there are red lights flashing in our minds. We may feel guilt, and our spirits cringe. When we ignore these signals, over time, they become easier and easier to disregard. Spiritual desensitization may not take minutes, like getting used to the smell of flood water, but as we continue to sin, there will come a time that we forget we ever knew that what we are doing is wrong.
All too often we consciously consent to tolerate only a portion of that which offends our spirits. We rationalize that to a certain degree it is acceptable. We don’t acknowledge that we are killing the delicate and sensitive part of our spirit that would protect us from evil and bring us so much greater light and joy in the future. My friends, every one of us does this, and every one of us can do better. My limited perspective will counsel that some things truly are insignificant, but it is between each individual and God to determine what is or is not harmful to you and those who’s lives you influence. Prayerfully poder what changes you can make. What changes can bring you closer to our Savior and bless you and your family? What is limiting your progression? Remember the principle of desensitization.”
We will never sin without being warned by the Spirit first. Listen, I beg you. Ignoring the Spirit is responsible for the greatest heartache I have ever experienced in my life. The devil works through many ways to desensitize us and lead us with a flaxen cord down to Hell, as described in Alma 28: 21-22 (“And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateththeir souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.
And behold, others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none—and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance.)
To receive the blessings and happiness our Father desires to give us, we must prayerfully recognize that we need to change, and with the strength of the Lord, change. If we understand and embrace the law of sacrifice, we will be able to withstand the traps of the Devil, regardless of how weak we are, because Christ will make up the difference.
C.S. Lewis wrote, “Christ says, ‘Give me all. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work. I want you. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked – the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself. My will shall become your will. My heart shall become your heart.'”