Apathy by Deanne Quarrie

DeanneWhen I sat down to write my article this month, I browsed through my computer for ideas.  As I did, I found this article that I wrote about 18 years ago for a newsletter I prepared for my workplace.  Because it is still a very relevant topic to me today, I thought I would share it here. ( food for thought – I am an introvert,  a triple Aries and a Myers Briggs INFJ)

I have spent a lot of my life sorting through very strong feelings in order to decide to express them or not. Of course, there are those that erupt before given the opportunity for that kind of sorting!  Just ask my friends and family!  I have often wondered if everyone has this going on inside their heads.  It is part and parcel of being an introvert to ponder such things. I have even wondered if perhaps some just  don’t have that experience of heavy duty “feeling”!  Of course, that’s a ridiculous idea.  We all have feelings.  We all just have varying levels of willingness to share them. 

For the last several days there have been three words drifting around inside my head looking for expression.  They are apathy, passive, and passion.  So, finally, I decided to look each of them up in the dictionary and here is what I found:

Apathy   … lack of emotion or feeling … indifference

Passive   … not active but acted upon … accepting without resistance

Passion   … a powerful emotion … boundless enthusiasm

Apathy and passive appear to be quite similar, and they are, but if you look closely, passive does not necessarily mean that one has a lack of emotion, simply does not act.  So, apathy can lead to being passive as well as the other way around.

So, next look at the word passive (acted upon – scary thought!) and the second part of the definition, “accepting without resistance”.  I can think of a lot of examples of people being what I thought of as passive but behind the scenes they certainly did not accept without resistance.  They chose not to act upon when given the opportunity, but later, created quite a disturbance.  So they were not really passive, were they?  They felt a passion to disagree but did nothing to speak out at the moment it mattered. They then grumbled and caused dissent after the fact!  They experienced passion but acted upon that passion in a destructive way.

In thinking about that, I wondered why that happens.  It does happen.  It happens to all of us.  We have feelings, we want to share those feelings at the right time but for one reason or another, we don’t.  But those feelings don’t go away.  They fester. They lead to stress, or even worse, they lead to negative behavior.  Why do we do it?  The only reason I can find, really, is fear.  If we could not express our feelings appropriately, it was because we feared we would not be understood, or we feared the response.  Something about the moment led us to believe that our feelings would be rejected, invalidated, cast out, laughed at, or simply ignored.  In thinking that, it is easier to not express in the first place.  But of course, as I said before, if we felt strongly about something and didn’t speak out, it will find a way out – somehow!

Every day, if we look around, we see situations of apathy.  Look at the percentages of turnout on voting day!  Look around you at the work place.  How many times have you come from a decision making meeting, where it was like pulling teeth to get anyone to voice an opinion, and later, after a decision was made, everyone hashed and rehashed, complained and grumbled about the decision as if they had never had a say in the first place!

Why is it that when we are given an opportunity to have a voice, such as in responding to questionnaires and surveys, which are anonymous, we still don’t respond?  Do we really not care?  Do we really think it doesn’t matter?  Certainly, if there is no response, there is no voice! As women, many of us were raised in environments that did not encourage speaking out.  Girls were taught to be quiet, to be respectful, and to not stand out in the crowd.  We were taught it was not ladylike to be bold and assertive, that we were better off being quiet and meek! And of course, I ask, “Better off how?”

I believe it is important to think about this, to look at how we respond to our own intense feelings, to injustice in the world.  I suggest that by acknowledging the passionate feelings we have and speaking out, whether it is on the job, at home, wherever we are, it is critical to being fully engaged and involved in our lives.  Let us find ways to express ourselves.  Let us find ways to create an atmosphere in every discussion that all will feel safe in sharing those opinions and feelings without fear.

Women have been silent in far too many situations.  Elders are silent and invisible in many cases.  If we do not contribute, how do we expect to ever make a difference?    My “Mama” raised me to believe that “you only get out what you are willing to put in.”

Let’s find a way, throughout our lives, to say what’s on our minds at the appropriate time, to speak out!  Let us find ways to do that.  There are concepts to explore in the areas of communication and ways groups can safely and fairly come to agreement where everyone has a voice.  Find those ideas.  Implement them in your lives.  Encourage those around you to share their opinions.  You be the one to create a safe place.  Find your voice.  Live a passionate life.  Get involved.  Remove apathy from your existence.  Do not be passive.  Life’s too short!

Deanne Quarrie. D. Min. is a Priestess of The Goddess, and author of five books.   She is the founder of the Apple Branch and Beyond the Ninth Wave where she teaches courses in Druidism, Celtic Shamanism, Goddess Spirituality and mentors those who wish to serve others in their communities. She is also an Adjunct Professor at Ocean Seminary College and is the founder of Global Goddess, a worldwide organization open to all women who honor some form of the divine feminine. 

Categories: communication, Feminism, Feminism and Religion, Gender and Power, General, Politics, power, Power relations, Relationships, Social Justice

Tags: , , , , , , ,

8 replies

  1. I think I am the same on myers-briggs as you. In addition, having been raised in a patriarchal family, I was taught to be quiet or shut up and sit still. Alice Miller has written eloquently about how our N European cultures’ child rearing practices squash all expression of all emotions in children. I now live in an expressive culture which has been helpful for me, but I also see now that expressing what we feel inappropriately can be even worse than repression–if the results are beating your wife and children as a father or beating and otherwise attempting to control you children as a mother.

    I am now in the situation of considering voting “white” (blank paper) on the upcoming Sunday elections. I suggest that not voting can come from some kind of repression and feeling that “I” can’t make a difference. But it can also come from not feeling the choices given on the ballot have anything to do with expressing “my ideas and desires” for the future of my community and our world.


  2. Thanks for this post. I agree with the “quiet and meek” problem, the needless hesitation to speak out as women, or the fear of being silenced if we do so. But at the same time, in order to go beyond apathy we have to care about things, which to the patriarchal world, would seem to be weak or insignificant. The success of the Christian Gospel stories have to do with that one lost sheep, or how about the Widow’s Mite parable, or Martha in the kitchen, and many other tiny vignettes that touch one’s heart.

    Those type stories certainly abound in other religious faiths including the Hebrews scriptures and in Buddhism, etc. Also in the Pagan scripture I’ve been working on, the ancient Greek Hymn to Demeter, it is so moving that the goddess, the Great Mother, takes on the form of a rather frail, old woman named Doso, and sits down to rest her aging body in the shade of an olive tree, near a well, simply in order to begin to participate in the vicissitudes of the human realm.


  3. This post is excellent and timeless (well, at least until we live in a less patriarchal society)!!


  4. You and Carol and I seem to be Myers Briggs triplets, except I always scored the same for introverted and extroverted. I think it depends on the setting whether I want to speak out or not. I, too, was raised to be quiet and “feminine”–well, what passed for feminine in the olden days when about all girls could expect was to to grow up to get married and be a housewife–but I somehow learned early on to be rebellious. In quiet ways. What do you think of passive-aggression? I used to have a friend who was passive-aggressive, and he drove me nuts. I don’t think apathy is good for us, not healthy. We need to be passionate, though perhaps not quite operatic. Too much expressed passion may not be good for the blood pressure. Ya think??


  5. There is no doubt in my mind that I am an introvert so it was no surprise when, many years ago, I took that test and discovered I am an INFJ. While I am introvert, it does not mean I am shy. Quite the contrary. As an introvert mingling in large groups of people simply drains me – totally. I must have my alone time to recharge. We introverts also process slower – it takes longer for events to process though our brains and so many of us and not “quick on our feet” verbally – but when writing – well, that is another story! we also learn to be extroverts when we are “on” – that is we are in our element and sharing with others. I have no trouble singing for groups or speaking to them if it is a subject near and dear to my heart. Put me at a cocktail party, however, and I become a wallflower – sitting on the sidelines observing people and pondering who they are. Sometimes I am far too passionate about things and events in my life and also so direct I can easily offend without any intention to do so!


  6. i have become more open and friendly and not shy with people since living in Greece, but the last thing I want to do is to be at a group party or in a bar.


  7. As a fellow introvert, I’m not sure that is the defining trait when it comes to silence in the public domain. Often we’re silent because we believe our voices won’t matter. With everyone shouting around us, can we be heard? Will we be attacked for expressing our views? Are we knowledgeable enough for anyone to care?

    People don’t vote for the same reason: how can my one vote change anything?

    Women have been taught to live isolation, believing each of us is the only woman experiencing whatever is in our lives. That’s how domestic batterers keep control: they isolate their victims. Depression, a malady too many women suffer from, encourages the sense of isolation and makes it difficult to reach out.

    When we first begin to speak out, our voices are usually barely above a whisper, but it feels like shouting. At this point, we should ask ourselves: what’s wrong with shouting for a good cause? Realizing shouting is sometimes appropriate allows us to speak louder with more confidence and more often. Of course, we’re not really shouting. We’re simply asking to be heard, but the easiest way to overcome the feeling of shouting is giving ourselves permission to shout.

    If we’re not sure we’re knowledgeable enough, the Internet is our best resource. We can link to experts who hold the same opinion and furnish facts to back it up. We don’t have to be experts ourselves in order to hold a valid opinion. We have common sense and life experience to guide us. We can let others provide whatever else we need.

    When I first began posting on public forums about women’s issues, I was timid even though I was passionate about the topic. To my pleasurable surprise, other women spoke out in agreement — women that were previously silent. Some wrote to me via email and thanked me for having the courage to start the discussion. Others said they’d learned a lot from me because they lived an isolated life in a small town where everyone else denied the oppression of women.

    What I learned is acting as if we’re courageous in our speech actually helps us be courageous in speaking, that we are not alone in the obstacles we face and we can build community with our shared experiences.

    There’s also a lazy way of participating. I belong to several groups who monitor women’s issues and write petitions to the appropriate people in protest, support or as an advisory. They send me email alerts. I respond by clicking the link and signing the petition. I’m done within a minute. But think of the power those petitions give us. We speak by the thousands, all with one voice.

    Our voices are valuable, whether solo or as part of a community effort. Thank you, Deanne, for writing this essay and getting the discussion going. Let’s hope it brings positive results to your readers.


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