Paul: Necessary Self-Defense or Hypersensitivity?


As we read from 2nd Corinthians 11 – Galatians 4, we encounter an assertive Paul defending himself in more early church disagreement. (Does he need to read about hypersensitivity? – see below.) Does anyone else ever struggle with Paul? I continue to study him in order to learn more about him rather than simply consigning him to a place outside of what Jesus actually taught, as all of us – including Paul – have our own context and interpretation of Jesus’ life, ministry, and mission. Paul was not Jesus, though his conversion experience turned him into a faithful disciple – but he in good faith interprets Jesus’ life and message in his own experience and context. E.P. Sanders observes “The problem was that some Christian missionaries, and possibly some of the Jerusalem leadership, did not agree that Paul’s mission was valid. There were some who preached ‘a different gospel,’ or a gospel contrary to Paul’s. (Gal. 1:8f; 2 Cor. 11:4).” (p. 7) Things are not so different in our own time – and we are reassuringly reminded that dissent and disagreement on matters of faith seem to be a feature, not a flaw, of Christianity.

What has been your experience of Paul?

This week we read Part 3,  “Managing Your Fears,” Chapter 18, “Hypersensitivity,” of the T+P+A Big Read 2019, The Lifelong Activist. Oh my word, do I identify with this chapter! Following a great many years of taking some of the wrong things too seriously, I see hypersensitivity as a misuse of imagination and the mistaken belief that everything revolves around me. Though Rettig cautions us to remain on the realistic side, even of positivity, I find it more pleasant to imagine beautiful, rather than awful, things.

Hypersensitivity is the tendency to overreact to life’s ordinary stresses. It’s a trait that procrastinators share with addicts, “blocked” artists and others who are having trouble coping.

Notice that I’m talking about “hypersensitivity,” not “sensitivity.” Sensitivity is a great personality trait. It means we’re deeply and meaningfully aware of ourselves, our environment and the living beings around us. The world needs as many sensitive people as possible because they are often the ones who notice, and strive to fix, problems.

Hypersensitivity, however, goes overboard. If a minor irritation, disappointment or rejection ruins your day (or week or month or year), then you’re hypersensitive. Conversely, if minor good news makes you gleeful or manic to the point where you can’t function, that’s also hypersensitivity.

Where are you on the sensitivity / hypersensitivity scale? How’s that working for ya?


For the rest of August, we return to the Ignatian prayer practice of the Examen. This infographic is my favorite quick rundown of how to pray it:

How do you meet God in your experience of the Examen?

C’mon over to People of the Books, our online book club in which we discuss these books and whatever else is on your mind or heart!


Check out the Find Your FBCO Map to find your local faith-based community organizing affiliate and connect with the people who are working together to live out their dreams of a more just world! What’s going on in your living of the Gospel? Let us know in the comments, in our e-mail discussion group, or on social media.