Hello friends, this is a little bit different than most of my posts. But over the last few years, thoughts have been crystallizing around this question: Why are we so tired? Anxious? Depressed? Overwhelmed as a society? I don’t want to oversimplify any individual experience, but I want to try and put my finger on some reasons why collectively, we are moving towards being a burned out and overwhelmed society.
For a moment, imagine that you are alive in the year 1900. Certainly, it had it’s own challenges, but you would not experience the following:
- If there were a hurricane/tsunami/earthquake/etc. in another part of the world, you wouldn’t ever hear about it. If you did, it would be long after any sort of response from your part of the world could be a part of the recovery.
- You wouldn’t have any idea what career sculpting is. You wouldn’t be worried from day to day if there were an open job that used your strengthfinders, enneagram, or MBTI results more fully. You’d already know pretty much everything you’d need to do the job you have, which is the job that you’ll likely end your career with.
- Similarly, you would not encounter a new endless call to personal development. Whether further education, certification, or equipping…you’d likely never be invited to consider any of it. Why? Because you are already sufficient for the time that you live in.
- Finally: if you were a woman (and we could write a similar line for men), you would not be bombarded every second of every day with a whole host of things that collectively call you to be the omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent Messiah. Likely, your mother would have taught you all that really is to know about being a good woman, and you’d spend the rest of you life living out of that competency instilled in you early on. Perhaps it included a career, family, education, but maybe not. You would know what a woman was and that you were one.
Instead, you live in 2019, and here’s the reality:
- Not only do you hear REAL TIME reports about disasters in every country on the planet, you are expected to personally care and do something about it. And if you don’t, you are then labeled many unflattering things. And, you can’t just pick one or two areas to care about…no, you must be omni-concerned. On Facebook, I saw someone post “50% of Syrians are now displaced…half the country is without a home. This breaks my heart” The first response to this heartfelt post was this: “What about the millions of babies who have been aborted in this country!” Both are worthwhile concerns. How did a refugee crisis become the enemy of unborn children?!?! But, our culture of over-care and over-engage means you have to crusade for any and every injustice.
- In today’s marketplace, you’re told that you better keep an eye out for a chance to move up and move on. Don’t settle in. Don’t get comfortable and competent. Keep climbing the ladder which is really more like a spider web these days with myriad ways to go. Career change isn’t just possible, but expected, encouraged. Oh, and btw, you should care about your career more that you do AND you should make sure that your career doesn’t interfere with your self-actualization either. Finally, make sure that your little job in Mena, Arkansas (for instance) isn’t affecting the economy in Mali, Latvia, or Indonesia.
- YOU are the problem. You are being crushed under the weight of being a better you. Why? Because, according to some, the you that you already are is not up to the task of living in this globalize, fast paced society…or so you’re told. We’ve been convinced that working hard at a job that produces something that society needs and provides for my family is selling out. We’re preached a self-god gospel: the world NEEDS YOU, your unique, one of a kind contribution to the planet. They forget to tell you that discovering this will often be harder than actually just holding down a good job, and in the end, you’re wasted from the effort.
- I ache for women today. From healthy eating, to career building, to child-rearing, to love making, to beauty and weight and passion and hobbies and home making and blogging and leading and self-fulfillment, you are deluged with all of this in 2019. Not just that it’s available, but that you must master all of it…for yourself, your family, your neighbors, your local school, and the random stranger. Be WONDER WOMAN!
So, why are we the way we are – brittle, fragile, and exhausted? I think a lot of it has to do with expectations. I think a lot of it has to do with being in a world, now, that is real time and global and not knowing how to live. And the call to do more, care more, give more, and be more is nonstop. We haven’t learned to think globally but act/live locally. The call from society is demonic. It’s calling you to try and replace God, to be the Messiah, to save the world, and look good doing it. It’s a lie from the pit of Hell. The Sabbath was made for man. Man’s limitations, his finiteness, is a gift from God. We can never do enough, control enough. Not as individuals or as society. We NEED God. We have to close our eyes, fall asleep, and trust that He’s in control.
One last caveat, some of the things about, if selectively and meaningfully engaged, are good things. Let’s pray for the suffering, that’s good, but then let’s trust them to God. When it makes sense for us to involve ourselves in some of the good causes out there, steward your life well. Personally, I like personal development, but it can be an idol.
If you’re looking to move deeper into this whole topic, Reset by David Murray has been helpful for me. It’s less about personal development and more about stewarding the life God has given you.