Looking behind, then forward

PAPAS: Looking behind, then forward

By Rev. Paul Papas

Mon Jan 11, 2010, 06:31 PM EST

You’ve probably heard it said that you don’t know where you are going unless you know where you’ve been.

This year saw a lot of changes with many more coming. The speed of the change has produced a lot of consternation and anxiety for many people. Add the rapidly increasing speed of the foreclosures to the deteriorating economy and we have a large cause for concern producing fear.

At one time it was a stigma to have your home foreclosed upon; now many you know have become victims of the worsening economy. Those victims include fewer people working and more people loosing their homes.

Fear was used to get the stimulus packages passed.

These stories of doom and impending catastrophe are not new. Seven chapters into the Bible we read about Noah’s flood. The people in the Middle Ages believed that comets would destroy the earth. And if that didn’t pan out, we always had a ghastly virus to kill us all: Bird Flu, Black Death, Flu Virus, and H1N1. Over the years, we’ve become more sophisticated and came up with new threats that surely will take care of the apocalypse: Second-hand smoke, over-population, global warming, global cooling, Anthrax – the list is endless. Looking back at past fears, some turned out to be real, some did not.

Winston Churchill said it quite well: “We have nothing to fear, but fear itself.” He then proceeded to motivate the country he led through a tough time while it was being bombed.

The world’s oldest profession is not what you think; it’s the business of fear. The attention the economy has taken has forced us to change those doom scenarios quickly. Otherwise we’ll get bored quickly and instead of moving on to the next threat, we might move forward with our lives. We’re attracted by doom scenarios: Daily life can be fairly boring. Regular politics are mind-numbing, just like the business world. But doom scenarios are interesting, raise your blood pressure and get us all excited. All the doomsayers have the same mindset: We have sinned, we made huge mistakes. Now is the time to pay for it. Or, if there’s a chance left, we need to change everything. The way we live. The way we do business. The way we make decisions. There’s no gray; just black and white. This time our great grandchildren will be paying for the fear based actions of our government.

Behind these scenarios is a longing: Humans should change radically. A crisis is a normal part of the human life cycle. We can work through a crisis by making rational decisions. Catastrophes are events we can’t control. A crisis asks us to work harder, to evaluate all options, to be diligent, and to deploy small changes to avoid a repeat. Catastrophes need big gestures and Saviors. It makes the individual feel small and helpless. That’s why people love Al Gore: He’ll save us from a catastrophe none of us can fix. Or the Dalai Lama: He’ll save my battered soul. Or Hank Paulson: He was supposed to be the savior. What happened?

The economy of fear was always used to keep people down and to remind us that there are forces out there bigger than us. But, it seems, the doomsayers try to be bigger than us and try to tell us to change our way of living, our thinking, or our whole existence. Or! They only focus on poverty, consumerism, and our cheap plastic culture. Walmart! China! McDonalds! And they forget responsible entrepreneurs, improved living conditions, national parks, improved air quality/life expectancy and all these other improvements our rotten society has developed throughout times.

We’ve been expelled from paradise a long time ago. And we won’t find our way back by proclaiming new doom scenarios every two minutes. We won’t be able to create a better society by believing in utopian ideals of no conflicts and a world without the possibility of a crisis. So, let’s work through this. Everything will change and nothing will change. It is what it is. All it takes from all of us is smart thinking. And a lot of work.

We can look forward with a glass half full or half empty. We can worry about the things we cannot change or we can work together to focus on the things we can change.

Fear, anxiety, and depression cost us all time, money, and even peace of mind. It can bring us to depths not previously known.

One thing about humans, we are resilient, we bounce back, we come back even stronger when we put our minds to it. Yes we can overcome.

Rev. Paul N. Papas II is a Pastoral Counselor with Narrow Path Ministries (located in Massachusetts and Arizona), founder of the Family Renewal Center and past President of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness).

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