I truly believe it’s killing us all... and not just physically. It’s killing us emotionally and socially as well. It’s literally tearing us apart and America is showing signs that it could become completely torn in two if we don’t do something to stop it.
We recently watched the HBO documentary “One Nation Under Stress” , which tries to uncover the reason why American life expectancy has fallen in the last few years and is now officially shorter than all other major developed countries. And that is despite spending more on healthcare than any other country.
The physical ramifications of stress are real. Most of us have become way too aware of that in recent years. You can just do a quick google search and find out how we are suffering physically from the stress that our current culture imposes on us. That is not new news. Physical ailments ranging from heartburn to cancer are listed as the body’s inability to process the stress we are under. It is actually considered a public health crisis by most professionals.
However, one of the most interesting things they talked about in that documentary was how when human beings are stressed, it severely limits their ability to be empathetic towards each other.
Ok.. now we are getting somewhere. That is explaining A LOT about the state of our nation as I see it now. We are losing the ability to empathize with one another because of our stress levels. It’s almost like the stress shuts down that part of the brain where we care about one another on a purely human level. Yes, we care about the people we are close to and love... but do we care about strangers?
I’m a strong 9 on the Enneagram, which is the Peacemaker. I hate conflict with a passion and will do just about anything to avoid it. However, I have learned in recent years that there is a big difference between Peacemaking and Peacekeeping. Being silent about injustice in my view is not PeaceMAKING. It might keep the peace in my little world for a bit, but in the grand scheme of things, learning to speak up when I see something being done to another human being that I believe is wrong is something I’m only recently getting brave enough to do. And it does take bravery to speak up about anything in this current social climate. It’s especially hard for a moderate like me because when I speak up, I don’t risk being attacked by the “other” side. A progressive’s voice will get attacked by a conservative and vice-versa, but when moderates speak, they usually get pummeled by BOTH sides. It’s a scary place to be. Brené Brown talks about this in her book, “Braving The Wilderness”, which I highly recommend.
But back to stress and empathy. How can we reverse this trend? How can we stop letting our current cultural voices convince us that we are each other’s enemies? Just because we don’t see eye-to-eye politically, socially, or religiously, does that mean we should fear one another? Not just FEAR each other, but actually HATE one another. That is the message I see from our loudest voices in America today. Our political, religious and social leaders are encouraging fear and hate and tribalism — and it is STRESSING ME OUT. ;-)
I had started this blog on Saturday before my show down in Alpharetta, GA - a couple of hours before I heard about the mass shooting in El Paso. I had trouble sleeping on Saturday night because of this horrible news rolling around in my head. Another mass murder in America? What is going ON? Then I got up on Sunday morning to drive back to Nashville and heard about yet another shooting, this one in Dayton, OH. I was truly heartsick.
I recently finished an in-depth study of the book of Galatians and I couldn't help but have Gal 5:15 running in my head:
"But if you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out, or you will be consumed by each other."
The horrible truth is we are a nation that is consuming each other right now. And I believe it's because we have bought into the notion that we should be afraid....very afraid. Afraid of anyone that isn't like us. Anyone who doesn't look like us. Anyone who doesn't worship like us, vote like us, speak the same language as us. And how does fear manifest itself? In anger and STRESS.
Guys, this mass murder problem that America has is a deadly combination of fear, stress, anger.... and guns. Too many dang guns.
I'm not saying I'm for a complete ban of guns. We are gun owners ourselves, but good gravy friends, it has gotten out of hand! America is the only country in the world with more guns than citizens. I know, I know.... I hear the common defense of "Guns don't kill people... People kill people.", but C'MON ON. Guns is definitely a common denominator in this mass shooting thing. While it's clear that the mental health issue is another part of the problem American culture is facing today, trying to ignore the consistent use of automatic rifles in these mass shootings is just INSANE. We have got to find a way to get these guns out of the hands of these angry white men.
Sorry, but that seems to be the other common denominator. White men. Should we round up all the white men in the country and deport them? No? That's crazy you say? Yes, of course it is. But let's face it.... we are a country under attack by our "own". Our fear of everything and everyone have led us towards a path of truly "consuming each other" (again -Gal 5:15).
One of the main fears I keep hearing is of losing our "rights" in this country and the freedom to live as we choose to live. But we are actually losing our freedom by believing the lie that we must live in fear of each other.
There is only one path out of this. And the answer is found again in Galatians.
I just hope and pray that we can find our path back to loving each other again and not just picking sides and deciding that whoever isn't on our side is our enemy. That is the stress talking. We are not each other's enemies. We are each other's neighbors, even when we don't see eye to eye.
Let that sink in: WE ARE EACH OTHER'S NEIGHBORS. No matter our skin tone, religious affiliation, or political attachments. And we have got to claw our way out of the stress induced fear and hate in this country and find our way back to LOVE.
Love your neighbor friends. Don't be afraid. Just love.
"There is no fear in love." - 1 John 4:18