The opposite of love (and purpose) is. . . indifference.


Album cover for “The Lumineers”

As is the case with most new music I get, the first thing I did upon downloading the Lumineers album was put on my headphones and listened to the lyrics.  One of the lines of the song “Stubborn Love” stood out to me.  It is a phrase I have heard much over the past few years.  Great line.  Packed with truth.  The line. . . 

“It’s better to feel pain, than nothing at all; the opposite of love is indifference.”

Intuition would normally points you to the opposite of the word “love” to be that of “hate”.  I assume school children the world over would get counted off if they claimed the antonym of “love” is “indifference”.  However, I do believe there is great truth in this.  The opposite of love is indifference, not hate.

This rings true in marriage.  I don’t have to be married to know that a great way to screw up your marriage is to grow indifferent towards your spouse.  If they get affectionate, you brush them aside.  If they get angry, you blow it off.  You don’t have to hate your spouse to kill your marriage, you simply have to demonstrate prolong periods of indifference.

This rings true at work.  You can go on raw skills and discipline for only so long.  If you are absolutely indifferent in your work, it will eventually catch up to you in the form of poor results and/or professional stagnation.  No matter how talented the person is, no one wants an employee that just doesn’t care.

I have worked with teams my entire profession career.  I’ve been on many teams and consulted many more.  The best way to drag the performance of a team’s bottom line down is to have an indifferent team member or two.  It is organizational cancer. 

This is obviously the case with sports teams, as we have all played with talented, yet moody and callus teammates.  You try to drag them along for the good of the team, but eventually their attitude, not their skills, has the largest impact on team performance.  The result is almost always calamitous.

As is the case with pretty much everything else that is true, the Bible has relevant teaching on this subject.  Notice the passage of Revelation 3:15-16. . .

I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot.  Would that you were either cold or hot!  So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.

Here, Christ is speaking to the church (those of us in faith).  He has no interest in people who are indifferent (lukewarm is His exact wording).  It’s almost shocking when you look at the tone of this language.  He says that it is better to be openly opposed to Him and His work than to be indifferent.

We are so often lulled into a minimalist perception regarding our understanding of God.  If I give this much, then it will be good enough to get by.  If I am good in this way, attend these types of services, do this type of good work, then that will suffice.  After all, I’m better than my no-good neighbor!

The Bible is clear, though.  God wants all of us or none of us.  He equates indifference in our faith to that of wretched milk.  You wouldn’t swallow warm, putrid milk, and neither does He.  In keeping with this analogy, just as you spit wretched milk from your mouth upon taking the first sip, so does God with us when we play around with religion, while all along remaining indifferent to Christ and His teachings.

This is difficult to hear, as I so often struggle with being indifferent to God and His ways.  Even beyond that, I often willfully disobey and/or passively drift into the lifeless cavern of indifference.  During times like these, it is good to remember and meditate upon passages like this one in Revelation.

Life is too short for indifference.  We need to fight against the insidious slow creep that indifference often employs to work its way into our lives.  No one gets married and hopes for a relationship characterized by apathy and indifference.  Yet it happens, more times than not.  No one looks back over their career with pride over being slack and lazy.

When thinking about the issues like “purpose” in my life, this has to be a part of it.  I cannot live a purposeful, fulfilling life in any aspect if personal indifference is part of the equation.

As we started this article with “the opposite of love is indifference”, I think we could echo this regarding purpose in life. . . “the opposite of purposeful living is indifference.”

Let’s employ the same logic to our faith and fight against indifference in the same way we do (or should be doing) in our families and careers.

Pray for me in this and I will do the same for you.

(If you found this post helpful, you might want to click here to find other related articles.) 



  1. Susan Alley says

    Very true & convicting words! It really is so easy to let indifference creep in throughout your day to day. We need to be reminded so we can remain aware & fight against it. Thank you for this great reminder!

  2. Bacon Man says

    The Lumineers didn’t come up with this line, you know.

    Also, hate *is* the opposite of love. Hate seeks to destroy, Indifference is neutrality. Indifference has no opinion. Hate, on the other hand, actively proclaims the utmost negative.

    Your examples are not thought out well. Consider war. Which is a more formidable foe, the one who is indifferent, or the one who hates you? Are terrorists a threat because they are indifferent to us? Hardly. Their hatred for us makes them a threat. Consider marriage. An indifferent spouse *is* destructive to a marriage, it’s true, but not *NEARLY* as much as a spouse who actively hates the other and seeks to destroy them.

    The example you give from scripture is tangential. That is, it’s not really talking about love and indifference being opposites. Jesus is saying that caring, whether you are for or against, is better than not caring at all, but he’s not addressing the issue of what the opposite of love is.

    Indifference *is* a terrible and destructive force, but it’s not the opposite of love.

    • says

      Good thoughts, Bacon Man. Not exactly sure you read my post closely, but I appreciate some of your points and concerns here. I’ll take them into consideration.

      Do you have a website, blog, or something with your thoughts on it? Really would love to read more of your processing of Scripture and life.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this. . .