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Character Matters
December 2010
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Character Trait – Sensitivity:
Check It Out. – What Does It Matter? – How Does it Count?
by Lori Coeman
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A Sensitive Peace
Being sensitive to the changing “weather patterns” around us is not only a key life skill, it is an essential character trait.

Sensitivity is defined as the ability to sense impressions, and the ability to receive and respond to outside stimuli.

When I first started studying sensitivity, I learned that it is an element of peace. That took me by surprise because I thought of sensitivity more along the lines of being compassionate and feeling empathy for those in need.

Romans 12:18 instructs us, if at all possible, to live at peace with everyone, to the extent that it depends on us. To do so, we need to be able to recognize the signals being sent by others and respond in a way that will bring Christ into the situation.

It doesn’t mean we change who we are. It means we change the outward “clothing” or the way we approach that person. It’s a change of orientation. Instead of beginning with where we are at and what we want to communicate or accomplish, we begin with where that person is at and what their needs are.

As a teacher, we want our children to master certain skills, but we must begin with what they already know and hook new learning to that. We can’t keep pushing forward to be able to check off that topic just to get it done. There’s no sense plowing ahead if the child hasn’t grasped the concept yet.

It is the nature of children to be “me-oriented” because they are exploring the world around them as it relates to them. Part of our training must include teaching them how to be sensitive to others, to consider how a situation looks to another person. Sometimes this requires getting them outside their own little world.

I remember one Christmas when the twins were twelve years old and at that age where the presents they want start to get are on the pricey side, and the number of items on their wish list seems to grow with each passing year. Unfortunately, our budget hadn’t grown.

To give my children some perspective, I took them on a couple of field trips that season: to a soup kitchen, a homeless shelter, and a local ministry to families in need. Packing gift baskets of food with one toy for each child did the trick. It opened their eyes to the realities of life and the blessings of abundance they enjoyed. On their own accord, they came home and whittled their list down to one item each that they really wanted.

Sensitivity is the ability to put yourself in another person’s place. Not at the expense of your own identity, but to be able to communicate and live at peace. I’ve heard it taught that in the essentials we speak truth, in the non-essentials we speak grace, and in everything we speak love. That’s a good working definition of sensitivity.

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Image Credit: © Mellow - Fotolia.com

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