Tuesday, August 9, 2016
Misery is contagious. . .
It does not take a genius to see the truth in these words. We love to commiserate and in that conversation that is the great temptation to one up each other on how bad we have it. You have done it. I have done it. We have all done it. But that does not make it right.
In our culture and society this misery focus has been ramped up by the language with which we address our problems. We insist that the things that trouble us are horrible, unbearable, painful, impossible, and they cannot be allowed to continue. Maybe a few of the things we face are worthy of such rhetoric but most of our troubles are not as terrible as the language we use to describe them.
Yes, racism is not dead but we live at a time when more people of more races, creeds, and ethnicities have a common place in and share the common privileges and responsibilities of a blessedly free country. The continued presence of racism remains a current problem for us but it is not like those faced by brave men and women a half century or more ago. Look around you.
Yes, injustice remains and some enjoy privileges over others equally deserving but we live at a time when the greatest injustices are not in what others do to us but what we do to ourselves. The injustice before the law has been largely replaced by an injustice we heap upon ourselves by demanding privilege we choose not to work for and by gladly stepping over others to obtain a position of prominence.
Yes, there are economic uncertainties and families in peril – fearful where they will find the resources to meet the challenges before them. But there are more agencies and institutions dedicated to mercy and caring now than ever before – for just such needs. Churches, government, charities, and individuals are providing more resources now than ever before.
Yes, the future seems grim when we look at our children and the futures we had hoped for them but at the same time we continue to enjoy a very high standard of living compared to the rest of the world and we reap the benefits of our technological advances day in and day out – for the benefit of all people!
My point is this. Misery is contagious but so is joy. We need to carefully ramp back the heightened rhetoric of a people who have loved to hear the sound of their voices complain and to unleash without restraint the disappointment of their hearts. It happens in churches as well. None of this makes us feel any better nor does it contribute to the improvement of the conditions we complain about within our country, community, and individual lives.
Furthermore, we rob those whose lives are truly wounded of the rightful attention paid to their hurts. Horrible is a parent burying a young child, a husband and wife who must live without a partner due to the fragility of age or the reality of death, a diagnosis that comes without hope of a cure, a smiling face that hides the scars of the worst of physical and sexual abuse.... Wake up folks. What we too often complain about are first world problems while a second, third, and fourth world desperately seeks to meet the basic needs of life.
Misery does not improve with complaint. Step back. Assess the blessings God has given you and acknowledge the mercies new every morning. Ratchet back the temptation to enlarge your complaint and learn to expand the voices of contentment, peace, and joy. The Lord is with us. Who can overcome us? Mercy is contagious like a plague but joy is contagious like laughter. It is time for us to learn the difference and to choose joy.