The Sacred Dying Art of Giving a Damn


In these days having a working heart is a hazardous proposition.

Looking around and seeing how calloused the world has become, how much bitterness has seeped into the bloodstream, how little people seem to care very deeply about much of anything or anyone—you can come to the conclusion that you should just do the same; that you may as well give company to their misery.

Because frankly, the alternative is exhausting.

It is a decidedly uphill battle right now to hold onto to compassion when all the momentum seems to be pushing against it, when the voices from within and without are saying, “To Hell with it all.” It would be much easier to surrender to the crushing gravity of hatred and be overcome by it.

Yes, right now you can very easily join the growing ranks of those whose empathy is quickly drying-up—or you can choose to give a damn.

I’m asking you to give a damn.

I’m asking you to not let the kindness in you go extinct, not to let the overwhelming heaviness right now have its way in your heart. I’m asking you to find the smallest kernel of hope and to strain to keep it close.

I know how broken these days have made you feel.
I know how very not-right it all appears.
I know how upside-down the world seems.
I know you think you’re losing your mind.

I know the grief of losing what you so hoped for, and the terror of seeing your greatest fears realized.
I know the pressure in the center of your chest and the tumult in the pit of your stomach.
I know that you are feeling like you’re close to falling apart and maybe you already have.

But I know something else about you: I know what a warrior you are.

I know that there is a hidden reservoir of goodness in you that is not yet fully emptied; that the very fact you are so wounded right now is the reason you can still fight—you still care enough to bleed and that makes you dangerous.

Yes, these days are terrible but they are not fully terrible.

Look around again, and this time try not to see the callousness and the bitterness. Scan the smoldering landscape to find the quieter places of defiant beauty. Look beneath the bombast of all that vitriol and discord and see those who like you, are limping and bleeding and may be falling apart, but who are doing the second by second work of resisting the momentum of hatred—those who still give a damn. 

And as you look around and see like-hearted warriors, find a reason to keep fighting yourself. There are always reasons.

There are people you love, dreams you still nurture, there is music and color and nature, and a billion silent miracles breaking out within your very body right now. There are songs you have yet to sing, sunrises that are coming, and there are plot twists that you will write for the story that no one else can write. There are people half a world away whose lives will feel the ripples of the beautiful noise you will make right where you stand, if you would only make it.

Yes, right now there seems to be a whole lot of people who just don’t care and maybe that’s true.

But not you.

You have not yet given up and become them, so don’t.

Feel deeply.

Love fully.

Move boldly.

Give a damn.





14 thoughts on “The Sacred Dying Art of Giving a Damn

  1. Dear John:

    You echo Ysra’el’s prophets as they addressed issues of their own day.

    Could we find some strength by divesting ourselves of the ‘warrior/battle’ mindset? I think that’s what you’re seeking when you speak of the ‘defiant beauty.’

    I continue to care, to sing [however feebly] as able, and to do what acts of kindness I can. But I’m done ‘fighting’ ‘battles.’

    I am increasingly persuaded that our society and state has rejected the path of wisdom. I am increasingly persuaded that only after the self-destructive anarchic and nihilistic direction which ever more dominates public life has leveled what lies around us that the society we want can be built. In other words, it may be time — however much we still care [and that we must] — to step back and allow judgment accomplish what we cannot.

    If I’m correct, we’ll have plenty more opportunities to minister care for the relief of misery. Perhaps this is our training for what is to come.

  2. “When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath.”
    John 5:6‭-‬9 ESV

    I’ve thought quite a bit about your post, JP.

    When I asked Jesus into my life, I was at a place long devoid of any hope. And I wanted to be healed. And now, in this Christmas season, when I look to what His birth means to my future- I’m not so sure that “giving a damn” by doing is my real effort because, I think for me, that is a natural Spiritual outpouring… His effect in my life. But I do want to give them hope. And sometimes that does take “giving a damn”. It takes a lot of effort these days to be salt and light. It’s easy to go with the disgruntled flow.

    Having Him in my life didn’t fix all my struggles but is sure is nice to be well in hope. And I’m not so sure, in these times, if that it isn’t the “greatest of these”.

    I will try and give them hope. Merry Christmas, JP.

  3. John, thank you for your words. More than anything else, the lack of compassion & empathy in this world is what creates the strongest feeling of sadness & hopelessness in me. No matter who our leaders are, no matter what our circumstances — if we as a society can no longer feel genuine compassion for our fellow humans, (ALL of them, not only the ones we “approve of”) — if we can no longer truly care about the “very least” among us, then we are pretty much doomed, IMO.

    I’m a “nonbeliever”, and I’ve only recently started reading your blog, having come across you totally by accident. I’ll admit — if someone had told me two months ago, that I would be looking forward to reading a Christian pastor’s writings every day, I’d have laughed hysterically & told them they were full of ka-ka.

    Thank you for being who you are, and for living Jesus’ teachings rather than “religion’s dictates”. For demonstrating so clearly that not all (so-called) “christians” are self-serving hypocrites, full of nothing but condemnation & judgement for anyone outside of their own little circle or ‘comfort zone’. (Sorry to sound harsh, but THAT sort of person has been my experience with the ‘christian faith’ throughout my life, both when I was much younger & trying so very hard to follow the faith myself, and in the many years since I walked away from it)

    IMO, your words transcend any boundaries of “religion” or ideologies & are relevant to all of us – regardless of religious beliefs or lack thereof. THANK YOU!! I truly do look forward to finding your posts on my FB feed every day.

  4. John, I am a therapist in Boulder, CO. I’m incredibly touched by this writing and would love to share it as a guest post on my blog, with your permission. My website is below, so you can see if it feels compatible for you.


  5. Wow, I feel as if you see me. I don’t understand why everyone is not seeing what I am seeing, not screaming at the top of their lungs that this is wrong. I can’t stand by and do nothing. But I struggle to find a place to start. To find like minded people. I feel so alone in my own world. Thank you for seeing me.

  6. Right here is the perfect website for anybody who really wants to understand this
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