Teach Your Children to Avoid Apathy

This lesson is based on material by Ed J. Pinegar and Richard J. Allen, and some of the information and ideas are from a forthcoming book called, “What We Need to Know and Do.

Mormon Family Apathy can be damaging to our spiritual and emotional well-being. An apathetic person wanders through life not caring about others, the teachings of the Savior, Jesus Christ, or life in general. Being apathetic in even a few critical areas of our lives can cause us to lose out on important opportunities and damage our relationships with God, Jesus Christ, and our families. Help your family develop a passion for all the right things in life by teaching a family night lesson on avoiding apathy and living life.

Learn how to hold a family night.

Prior to this lesson, purchase or make a small, attractive notebook for each person. At the top of the first page, write “My 200 Greatest Accomplishments.”

Display a poster listing some of the things that might be important in the lives of your family, such as family, church, God, Jesus Christ, hobbies, education, and friends. Ask your family to talk about these items and what they add to your lives. Now ask them what would happen if they suddenly stopped caring about these things. Go back through the list and address each item one at a time, evaluating how a lack of interest in these parts of our lives would harm us.

What would happen if we stopped caring about all of them at once?

Write the word apathy and ask if anyone knows what the word means. It means to not care about something. If a person is apathetic to broccoli, he doesn’t hate it and he doesn’t love it—he just doesn’t care one way or the other. Apathy towards important things like those on the list is spiritually and emotionally damaging. Ask your family to explain how apathy could harm specific aspects of their lives.

Ask each person to write or draw one thing they’re very passionate about. What makes them so passionate about this? Now ask them to write something they aren’t passionate about that would be good for them to be passionate about. What can they learn about their answer to the first question that could help them become passionate about this second thing?

Choose a few items from the list you used at the start of the lesson and talk about ways a person could develop a passion toward those things. Select items you want your children to be passionate about.

Give older family members the following handout from the forthcoming book mentioned above.

1.  Reach inside.

  • Pick yourself up—Focus on the specific times in your life when you have felt the greatest satisfaction and enthusiasm for life. It’s impossible for apathy to survive in such recollections—especially if you identify ways to bring yourself up that level again, and start to act on them. In the moment of difficulty, when apathy rises, remember: sooner or later, things will get better.
  • Talk yourself out of it—Self-talk (words of encouragement to one’s self) can increase one’s passion, love, and enthusiasm, thus helping to overcome apathy.
  • Take stock—Veteran management consultant Joe Batten has people write down the 200 greatest accomplishments of their life. Impossible? Not at all. You will be amazed what you have been able to accomplish, and you will find channels of uplift and ideas to link onto.

2.  Reach out to others.

  • Take someone to see a special movie or play—Life can be beautiful, regardless of the situation, as evident, for example, in the wonderful 1998 Roberto Benigni movie Life is Beautiful. Seeing this uniquely effective academy-award-winning love story is a powerful antidote to apathy. And there may be other favorite films, plays, or books that will also lift you up when you need it.
  • Turn to your friends—Contact the most enthusiastic person you know—it will give you a boost. In fact, start an anti-apathy file of loved ones and trusted colleagues. Anytime you feel you are slipping into passivity, get in touch with one or more and be lifted up. Visiting with valued friends can help one return to a more positive state. Turn to God. His love comforts and gives one power to rise above all things.
  • Make someone smile—Take it upon yourself to lift someone else up—a child, a loved one, a nursing-home patron, a neighbor. It is important, especially in those moments where you feel apathy creeping into your life, to serve others.

3. Reach forward.

  • Work on your goals—Focus your mind on success and important goals—especially those involving family and loved ones. Identify the most important thing you could do today that will bring you closer to your objectives. Do it! Apathy will vanish. Remember, success and achievement are impossible when one is apathetic. A person needs enthusiasm and passion to succeed.
  • Follow a secret interest—Do something worthwhile you have always wanted to do. It might be to enroll in a course, cultivate a garden, take up the arts (music, painting, sculpting, writing, dancing), get a pet, teach a child to read, take up cooking, or become a volunteer in a community service project. Finding a new interest will increase emotion and passion.

4. Reach upward and outward.

  • Turn to God—Remember that you are encircled in the arms of His love (see 2 Nephi 1:15). Visiting the Fountain of Life in prayer and scripture study is an uplifting and awesome experience that will dispel apathy and renew vitality.
  • Cultivate Charity—Apathy occurs most of the time when we are looking inward. Look to serve and bless someone else rather than think of your own plight. Remember: you can feel love when you give love.
  • Hope—Hope empowers one to look forward to a better time and place through faith in Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice.

Go over each of the points with your family. Invite them first to focus on step three. As a family, choose one thing to do together to develop a new passion in life—something that will create shared interests and memories. Then challenge them to select one other thing to do on their own and write or draw it.

Then move to step four. Choose one of the first two to work on as a family and as individuals. Select a family service project—perhaps befriending someone who needs a friend–or choose a new spiritual event to add to your schedule, such as a family devotional each day or family scripture reading.

Tell your family one way to overcome apathy is to become aware of how many wonderful things you’ve already accomplished. Pinegar and Allen suggest writing our 200 greatest accomplishments so far. This might be a challenge and will take time, but we all have them. Hand out the notebooks and encourage your family to begin listing their 200 items. When they are done, they should set goals to accomplish 200 more. Invite them to write down the first five they want to carry out. They should continue writing their accomplishments as they achieve them until the book is full, at which time, they should start a new one.

Finish off the evening by trying some new foods, playing a new game, or doing a new activity to see if you can gain some new passions.

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