“What is going on?!”
Countless times I’ve asked myself this question while watching the news and world events during the last year. I’m baffled. Concerned. Outraged. Confused. And I have found very little understanding amidst it all. I know I’m not the only one feeling this way.
We ask, ‘What will come of it all?’ What’s so unsettling is that we don’t know. While we may not fully understand where this turmoil will lead us individually or as a country, you personally can ask yourself this question – Who do I want to become in the midst of all this?
Why Do We Have So Much More Noise Than Before?
We, as a country, are in a protracted transition; a word used to describe the spaces between what was, what is no more, and what is to come. It’s the ‘in between space’ in which all the noise is made. But what exactly is the noise? And why does it seem so much more incessant in the age of social media? The ‘noise’ is not only the daily reminders that we live in a messed up and broken world (terrorist attacks, global warming, corrupt governments, etc), but also the non-stop commentary on all of it.
Decades ago, our world news was limited to what the newspaper reported about distant countries. The commentary was the Op-Ed piece or what we talked about around the water cooler and on our front porches. Now, 140-character thoughts shift what we all talk about for days. And with a finger scroll,, we have seemingly unlimited access to news and politics from around the world with a thread of everyone’s opinion on it. It’s assault feels never ending, especially when the commentary has been as derisive as the last 18+ months.
Much of the noise today is coming because there is so much uncertainty during a transition. Change ushers in uncertainty, and that’s too uncomfortable for me … and for most. The discomfort creates a great deal of noise both inside and around us. There is a lot of uproar eagerly clamoring for attention. And that uproar is often reactive and thoughtless. It’s in this protracted transition where we scratch our heads, shed tears, shout, pound our fists, and ask the really hard questions. It’s where voices rise with “I have to do something!” but exactly what we’re supposed to be doing isn’t so clear.
What Can We Do About It?
So, how do we express our thoughts and emotions healthfully? There are two common approaches to the noise – running away from it (i.e. putting our heads in the sand and ignoring it) or running in with fists a-blazing (i.e. starting social media arguments). Neither of these approaches is healthy or appropriate, unfortunately.
What if instead we actively chose to listen to the noise? I don’t mean interacting with Internet trolls who are out looking for an argument. But finding people who have a different understanding than you, and listening to them. Choosing to stay in the midst of it is something completely different. In fact, it seems in this day and age, it’s counter-cultural. Actively listening to learn (and not forming a new argument in your head as you pretend to listen) leads to understanding. And understanding is what we want most. The goal cannot be to win. Healthy communities, families, couples, or friendships that have journeyed through life together for some time understand this point well. There is something breathtaking about healthy relationships: their differences don’t divide them, they serve as glue. They do the hard work to understand one another because they believe that the best plots end with restoration, not fragmentation.
How we listen and engage—especially when it’s this loud and crowded—matters; for it will determine whom we choose to become.
Who will you stop and listen to this week?