Indifference

By Rev. Dr. Ron Robinson ’78, Perkins-Prothro Chaplain & Professor of Religion

A few years ago, thanks to the benevolence of a friend, my wife, Heidi, and I were given the opportunity to spend some time with Elie Wiesel. You may remember him as the Holocaust survivor and Nobel Prize winner who wrote scores of books giving us insight into how to live meaningful, purposeful lives. Many students arrive at Wofford having read his book, “Night,” while in middle school or high school. If you are not acquainted with him, a Google search for his quotations is worth your time.

During the afternoon and evening we were with Mr. Wiesel, he talked about the opposite of love. He said, “The opposite of love is not hate; it is indifference.” I have recalled that statement almost daily since hearing it that day for the first time. 

The past few days that statement has been with me virtually every moment. The seemingly endless events of racism, which have prompted people to rise up and speak out in protest tell me that there are lots of people who refuse to be indifferent. The times demand engagement.  Voices need to be heard. Changes need to be implemented. A better world needs to be built. Indifference will not suffice.

Not long after our experience with Elie Wiesel, he delivered a speech in which he said, “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”

All things good and true and just require us to be proactive, to be engaged, to care, to listen, to understand, to act. Sometimes our singular actions may seem so small, but collectively they make a positive difference. 

Thanks to you who are saying no to racism, hate and injustice. Thanks to you who are showing us that the opposite of indifference is art, faith, life and love.  We can — we must — build with these.  As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. told us, “We can’t wait.” That would be indifference.

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