Do you sense life is spinning out of control?
I do, especially when thinking about the “good old days” growing up in the exurbs of a major city decades ago. Life seemed simpler. Happier. Peaceful. But do my sentiments reflect what was really going on?
Not one bit. Here’s a sampling of what happened when I was a kid:
- A missile crisis
- Three assassinations
- The start and inglorious end to an unpopular war
- Gas shortages, and
- A president’s resignation
1975 was especially unsettling. That spring, two sisters, Katherine and Sheila Lyon, disappeared without a trace from a suburban shopping mall. Child abductions didn’t happen then, or at least they went unreported.
Generational Turmoil: Nothing New Under the Sun
Throughout the unrest, adults in my life griped about the state of the nation, sometimes recalling their childhoods when they thought life was kinder, and people behaved more civilly.
But people have never behaved.
In the 30 years leading up to the Civil War, for example, Congress was a violent place. Representative Preston Brooks caned Senator Charles Sumner into unconsciousness on the Senate floor in 1856. Two years later, a mass brawl erupted between Northerners and Southerners in the House.
From reading the congressional record, American historian Joanne Freeman discovered about 70 violent incidents where fists flew, and guns and knives were drawn. Their behavior reflected the state of the nation, she says.
Indeed, each generation has lived through societal and economic turmoil, despite what our minds recall. Ecclesiastes 1:9 says it well: “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”
Is It Getting Worse?
But do you sense our society has become especially unhinged in recent years and wonder if social media is to blame? Hiding behind their avatars, people say just about anything. And a lot of it is unhelpful.
The news is also toxic. Scan any publication, regardless of its political slant, and you’re pummeled with negativity and disturbing trends. Suicides are up. Drug abuse is rampant. Children are trafficked. Innocent pedestrians are beaten unmercifully by laughing teenagers.
Meanwhile, political correctness has silenced many. Some people no longer feel comfortable exercising a basic right—the freedom of expression—for fear of retribution, ridicule, or censorship. You may agree or disagree with someone, but we’re responsible for defending everyone’s right to speak.
Martin Niemöller’s famous quote comes to mind:
“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
What Can We Do?
I have no answers and struggle myself trying to understand people who don’t think like me. Knowing it’s important to keep my thoughts in check, here are some suggestions that helped me:
- Pray and remember we’re all made in God’s image.
- Treat others the way you want to be treated.
- Ignore those who promote division, name-calling, and violence. Call it what it is—evil!
- Intentionally seek opportunities to pay a compliment or help someone in need. If your inner voice tells you to reach out, listen to it.
- Find common ground. We have more in common than we don’t.
- An informed citizenry is a must but spending too much time with the news can skew perspective and reinforce stereotypes. Scale back on its consumption.
- Practice skepticism. Not everything you read or hear is true.
Solution—Revel in Everyday Heroes
Here’s another: Revel in the goodness that still surrounds us.
One LinkedIn member I follow posts extraordinary stories about everyday heroes.
Learning about a biker organization that helps child abuse victims is uplifting. So is this recently posted quote: “Today you could be standing next to someone who is trying their best not to fall apart. Whatever you do today, do it with kindness in your heart.”
Am I on or off target? Let me know—but nicely. Cussing and name calling would only prove my point.