What’s Wrong With the World?… I Am.
Do you want to be depressed?
Okay, so here is what you do…Just go over to the TV and turn on the news.
Internationally, you can despair of marauding radical jihadists consolidating control in oil-rich Middle East and exporting their hate to cosmopolitan civilized centers. You can worry about tinpot dictators in marginalized countries recklessly brandishing their nuclear weapons while making irrational demands. You can lament the enduring, crippling poverty of disaster-struck and disease-ridden regions of the world in desperate short supply of the basics necessary for survival.
Nationally, you can witness the most crass display of hubris and demagoguery pandering or raging its way to the top of the each party’s presidential ticket while the likes of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt roll in their graves. Observe universities, the self-described bastions of free speech, self-immolate as they legitimize thought-policing and draconian retribution against those who dare to dissent from the New Orthodoxy. And let’s not even get into the latest pyrotechnics surrounding marriage, race, gender and sexuality.
And, of course, locally you can turn on the evening news for a healthy cup full of murder, arson, rape, theft, poverty strangely lightened up with a curiously placed dog story
But do you want to know something?
I don’t want to be depressed.
And I found that one way to avoid being depressed is to recognize a fundamental, incontrovertible truth. While I can find endless fault with the world around me, I often smugly find little fault with myself. Oh, it’s not that I think I am perfect. I simply prefer the narrative that I am. This certain trap of blamelessness frees me up to criticize the world and then sleep content and deliciously assured that “at least I am not contributing to that mess.”
Except that I am.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn once said,
“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.”
And G.K. Chesterton puckishly wrote a letter to the editor,
Regarding your article ‘What’s Wrong with the World?’
And they were right.
I can’t change the world and all that is wrong in it. But perhaps I can work on changing that unchangeable thing, that stubborn immoveable object that greets me in the morning and retires with me at night.
So perhaps I should follow the advice of Blessed Mother Teresa when she reminded,
“What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.”
Or consider the wisdom often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi,
‘Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society.’
Though this may sound like a call to abdicate worldly responsibility and turn inward, it is not. I truly believe we should evangelize, vote, volunteer, donate, write letters, write essays and move the needle toward God’s virtue and away from worldly vice. But first we need clear sight. I know that I need to find time to examine my conscience, offer confession, seek reconciliation and try again. I need to adopt the discipline of obedience and muster the strength to carry the cross. In effect, I need to honestly assess and address my own flaws (with the essential Grace of God). In so doing, I am first taking greater responsibility for what I most control: my sinful self. It is a rebuilding process with temporal and eternal consequences. And it affects not only my own soul, but my wife, my kids, my friends, extended family and colleagues. Grace sought is Grace received. And when others sense a person is transformed by Grace, in the most mysterious (and perhaps imperceptible) of ways, they find it hard not to be transformed as well. “Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society.” Indeed.
I don’t want to be depressed.
Okay, then. Okay.
Let’s get to work.
Photo credit: Wikipedia