Cappuccino Soul

Cappuccino Soul

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Ignoring Pain and Suffering

Have you heard the horror story about the woman at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn who fell out of her chair last month while at the hospital, and was thrashing on the floor dying while people around her, including a hospital security guard did nothing to help?

It was an hour before another patient told hospital staff that this woman was dead on the floor. We only know about this tragedy because the whole scene was caught on one of the hospital's surveillance cameras.

Of course this is not the first instance of people in dire straits, or facing death, who have been passed by as onlookers did nothing to help.

What has caused us as people (and I'm including myself here) to become so numb and insensitve that we can stand by and watch others (who are sometimes our own friends and relatives) suffer acute physical and/or emotional pain and do nothing to help -- not even offer some sort of comfort?

Does anyone have any insight into this phenomenon?


Keith said...

I remember the study where young priests were encouraged to give a special lecture on The Good Samaritan, and when they were rushed to the lecture literally stepped over a man (suffering and down in the path)when late to give the talk...

What passes through my mind when I am in such a situation as the one you describe? I know I try to do better, but when my score card comes in... How do I fare?

Cappuccino Soul said...

Wow..... I would love to read up on that study. What is it that led those priests to ignore the man in their path? (I know the rushing is part of it but, maybe we need to look at what causes the rushing).
I think the answer to that would help us on our way to solving this practice of ignoring pain and suffering.

I too, vow to do better. I pray that God opens my eyes to this more and more everyday.

Thanks for commenting and peace to you.

Unknown said...

The study Keith references is described in Philip Zimbardo's textbook on psychology. It is very disillusioning.

The classic story is that of Kitty Genovese, who was stabbed to death in NYC while dozens of people heard her screams and yet failed to call the police or do anything. But some people are disputing this version of the facts. Nevertheless, her murder prompted the study of "the bystander effect" and "diffusion of responsibility." See:
This is a big can of worms, and there are library shelves filled with books on this subject.


Hey there...

If I may share a quick story with you:

Once a famous Bishop was interviewing for an open spot on his ministry team....he recruited throughout the country and picked nine candidates to fly in...his office made sure to tell all candidates that if they were late, the interview would be cancelled without any discussion...

Each candidate arrived and went in the building...and each walked by a man dressed in tattered rags who seemed to be crying loudly with his face buried in his hands...the last candidate arrived...a woman...she heard the man's cries and kneeled down and told him God loved him and understood his pain and she asked if he would mind if she could pray for the time she got into the building...she was late for the interview!!

She walked in and said:
"I apologize that I am late. I understand that I can not interview. I just wanted to let you know that I was not a no show. Please thank the Bishop for selecting me as a candidate and extend my apologies for wasting his time today as he had to wait for me."

She turned to leave and the Bishop walked out of his office and beckoned her to come forward. As she walked, the man in rags who she had prayed over walked in the door behind her and he said, "I would like to introduce you to the Reverend you will be working most closely with. You have the job. Of the nine candidates, you are the ONLY one who stopped to see about the weeping man. We welcome you into this ministry."

Thank you for your post.

Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!

Anonymous said...

I am not at all surprised by the actions of the people around the dead woman. I fell down in a store a few years ago and the people just passed and did nothing. The man responsible for the fall, a worker, went back to work because he was afraid. Then he finally took notice. I see this ignorance even in our families today. The younger people are insensitive and could care less. We, perhaps, shower them with too much attention and expect nothing in return, so we are teaching them to be this way. It isn't only the young who are callous; some older people too have a "don't get involved" attitude. They do not realize that the sick person could be themselves. It truly is a sickening society when people would walk away from a dying or injured person. We're going to PAY.

Joe said...

The study Keith mentioned involved 40 students studying for the ministry at Princeton Theological Seminary. It was published as: Darley, J. M. and Batson, C. O. "From Jerusalem to Jericho: A Study of Situational Variables in Helping Behavior." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1973, 27, 100-108.

The study is described in Philip Zimbardo and Floyd Ruch, Psychology and Life: Ninth Edition (1975), pp. 630-631. It is part of Chapter 14, "The Perversion of Human Potential," in the subchapter on "Pathology in Urban Centers," section on "Help! Who Will Help Me?"

Anonymous said...

I was moved by your conscious raising article noting behavior of which most of us are guilty. It is due to our failure to practice the love of neighbor as taught by Jesus. Read the parable of the Good Samaritan in St. Luke 10:25-37Love,

Cappuccino Soul said...

I have heard of the Genovese murder and others like it. The whole phenomena is very disturbing. I took a look at the Wikipedia article that you suggested and was struck by this section:
"Early in the film The Boondock Saints, the story of the murder of Kitty Genovese is used in a Catholic priest's sermon, in which he states, "..there is another kind of evil which we must fear most, and that is the indifference of good men."

Cappuccino Soul said...


Thank you for sharing that very touching story. I only wish I could meet that female candidate who the Bishop ultimately chose for his ministry team. I'm sure I could learn a lot from her.

Peace to you sister,

Cappuccino Soul said...

Thanks for commenting.
I'm so sorry that you were ignored in that store. I truly hope that more of us will want to "get involved."
Peace to you,

Cappuccino Soul said...

Princeton Theological Seminary! My goodness. Thanks for the detailed information about how to find the article. I'll look it up.

Thanks for commenting!
Peace to you,

Cappuccino Soul said...

Thanks for this! I will read the Bible passages you mentioned as soon as possible. Much love to you!

Finding the Happy said...

The most heinous illustration of ignoring pain and suffering I've witnessed was when HIV first entered our vocabulary. I saw mothers, fathers, siblings, "the church", friends, neighbors and our government turn a blind eye, deaf ear and cold heart to the plight of God's children. People's indifference spurred many of us into action, then and today.

Our sacred stories are clear...we are called to "love one another". If we could honor that intent daily, the world would look very different.

Cappuccino Soul said...

Amen sister.
You've said this far better than I could have.... the world, indeed, would look and feel a lot different if we all "loved one another" DAILY.

Erik Donald France said...

Great post. May we all find grace or at least find the strength to do the decent right thing!

Affliction is an awesome (and scary) movie.

Cheers from Detroit ;->

Cappuccino Soul said...

Thanks for commenting.

Yes, I'm always checking myself and asking, am I doing the decent, right thing.

Affliction is scary, isn't it? I LOVE the acting and direction. That is truly a work of art. It made me really think about how dysfunction in a family can be passed down and alter things for the worse if you don't understand it and work to change things.

Peace to you!