The power of sensitivity and insensitivity

Binkanryoku to Donkanryoku calligraphy by Rev. Masato Kawahatsu

敏感 (Binkan) means “sensitive.” The left side of the first character represents a woman with long hair, and the right side indicates a hand. The hand is gently taking care of the woman’s hair. The second character’s top lines represent a fruit tree and the portion below indicates a mouth and heart.

力 (Ryoku) means “power.” This indicates an arm muscle.

Binkanryoku to Donkanryoku
calligraphy by Rev. Masato Kawahatsu

鈍 (Don) means “insensitive or dull.” This character’s left side represents gold found in a mountain and the right side represents a small child. The gold does not shine when it is first discovered because it has not been polished yet.

Are you sensitive or insensitive? We may think being sensitive has more positive connotations, however Dr. Junichi Watanabe argues for the importance of a certain type of insensitivity.

I used to believe that being sensitive was powerful, but as I get older, I am learning that insensitivity can be more positive than we initially believed it to be. When I was criticized as a young person, my sensitive heart would translate it into negative feelings and emotions that I would hold onto for a long time. Sometimes, it even made me physically ill and affected my relationships in a negative manner because I was not able to communicate without getting drowned by my own sensitivity.

Now, I try to accept those criticisms with a bit more insensitivity or subjectivity. If I practice removing my own feelings of self consciousness or frustration, I can look at the situation for the facts and important points. I use these to try to improve, but I also consider all sides and perspectives.

In his book, “The Power of Insensitivity,” Dr. Watanabe mentions that a good doctor must have a balance of sensitivity and insensitivity. His chief doctor always complained to Dr. Watanabe about the other doctors, which stressed him out and made him worry. Dr. S was the chief’s first assistant and was constantly reprimanded by the chief, but his response was never aggressive.

Dr. S would always reply, “Hai, hai,” or “Yes, sir,” without getting upset.

Dr. Watanabe was impressed by Dr. S’ resilience and eventually promoted him to the head director of a large hospital.

It is easy for us to get angry or lash out when we are scolded, but perhaps there are ways we can practice insensitivity that will allow us to foster better relationships with ourselves and other people.

If your spouse complains about you and you get upset, perhaps you can practice saying, “Aritgatou gozaimasu” in response. One of my acquaintances tried this and said that he and his wife laughed after he responded this way, rather than instigating their usual fight. He was very sensitive before, but he tried to be less sensitive by saying, “Arigatou gozaimasu.” Please try this and let me know the responses you receive!

Rev. Masato Kawahatsu is a minister at the Konko Church of San Francisco and Konko Center of South San Francisco, who teaches shodo (Japanese calligraphy). He can be reached at or (415) 517-5563. The views expressed in the preceding column are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei News.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

See the 2024 CAAMFest