Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Easy Answers

We all want easy answers. The lazy, pain-avoiding selfish side of us all wants solutions that require minimal work from us and that ultimately cost us very little. And certainly elections feed into this desire. The bigger the election, the bigger the hope that the answers to our problems are only a vote away. If only [INSERT CANDIDATE] is elected, then [INSERT ISSUE, i.e. The Economy, Unemployment, Healthcare, etc.] will be fixed. Making it worse is the fact that while we agree with the popular notion of "The Good" for all, if we are really honest, underneath this hope for an answer to the "big" issues, is really a desire for some personal benefit (i.e. I can finally retire, or I can finally find a job, or now I don't have to worry about getting sick, etc.).

Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting it's a sin to want/need a job, or to want the economy to be stable, or to want healthcare for myself and/or others. These are all good things and just part of surviving. The problem comes in our wanting all this to be "easy."

When we are faced with difficult situations...hard choices...we recoil from the possibility of pain. We don't want to endure any kind of pain...even briefly...whether that be the pain of unhappiness or depression, the pain of sacrifice due to financial struggles, the literal pain of enduring an illness, or even the more altruistic pain of knowing there is a world of suffering that we feel we can't do anything about. And so to avoid the pain, we cling to easy answers..or at least the appearance of easy answers. If we can just get the right leader, or the right job, or the right spouse, or the right economic environment, or the right law, etc. then everything will be better. Despite the seemingly obvious naivete of this belief, it makes us feel better. We console ourselves with the notion that by supporting this candidate or this cause or this 'solution', we are DOING something about the problem. But the reality is...we are wanting someone else to do the work that solving this problem would really take.

We see this play out time and time again. A pain (meaning an issue) rises and consumes our collective attention. Journalists begin talking about it, politicians begin debating it. Grand solutions are drawn up and then these are debated. Despair grows as this looming issue persists in our collective mind. And in the end we get a new program or a new law and the process starts all over again. But often, the situation continues. People are still hungry, crime still exists, prices still rise, jobs are still hard to get, and people are still in pain.

The challenge is that we are complacent and comfortable...even in our discomfort. For solutions to happen, change has to happen. And while we are accustomed to talking about change in the big picture, we are all fairly deft at avoiding change in our own little world. Change hurts. It requires a breaking of our will...forcing it from one position to another. And since that is so very hard for us to do, most of the time we don't do it.

But for all that elections do to foster this false hope in an easy answer, they also provide us with a wealth of reminders and a great opportunity to recognize the truth. The solution to all of our problems (hunger, illness, crime, loneliness, depression, and even death) begins with each of us. We need to stop trying to escape the pain of change...the pain of difficulty...the pain of resisting our selfishness. If we see or know of someone who is hungry, WE need to feed them. If we know of someone who is sick, WE need to secure care for them (if not do it ourselves). If we know of someone who is lonely, WE need to visit them. Of course this is inconvenient, and yes this can be awkward, and yes this can cost us (both time and money), but that's the real answer. As Gandhi put it so succinctly, "be the change you want to see in the world." If each of us were willing to do this, the world would change....problems would be solved.

But sadly that won't happen. I'm not really this much of a pollyanna. I know that not all of us are willing to try to do this...and fewer still will persevere long enough to actually do it. [I have enough failures in my own life to doubt whether I can actually do it...even as I write this.] But changing the world isn't really the reason to do this anyway. The reason I should change...the reason I should act...and the reason I should feed and care and visit (and the reason you should too) is not because I can change the whole world, but because I can change the world of at least two people: myself...and the person I help. And what greater purpose can a life have than to improve the life of someone else...that is to love someone else. This is what it means to really love. This is what loving your neighbor really looks like. This is what God desires of all of us.

"Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 'For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat ; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink ; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.' "Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink ? 'And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 'When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' "The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.' (Matthew 25:34-40
"Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." (Romans 12:15-18)

1 comment:

PRForgette said...

Change is the only constant thing in our lives. You are correct that it is not easy and we usually have difficulty dealing with it.
I still have the occasional times when things are not easy. But I know that He is there to help me.
Please keep writing, your reflections on life do help others.