I once heard a pastor say that you should never make an important decision if you’re hungry, tired, lonely, or scared. I’ve always found that statement to be simple yet profound. It’s also easy enough to view it through the lens of current events.
As human beings, regardless of where we live or what our circumstances, for the past two years, we’ve made almost every daily decision on the basis of fear. After all, a novel virus that is potentially lethal is a worse-case scenario…literally a silent killer. Seemingly overnight, our daily activities, our interactions, nearly everything that we took for granted had to be re-examined as potentially deadly activities. Worse, if they were not deadly for us, they could be deadly for those with whom we were in contact, even incidentally. The volume of what we didn’t know was profound.
There was little information, and fear thrives in a vacuum.
The issue with fear is that it’s contagious. It’s selfish. It overtakes any rational thought. There’s a reason why the first instruction in an emergency is to “remain calm.” When we’re calm, we can examine the situation that confronts us and think through the best course of action. We can make reasoned decisions. When fear is our motivation, we are always on the defensive, always reactionary, always choosing fight or flight. The end goal of every decision is to survive, at the expense of everything else.
As a human race, if the pandemic has taught us anything at all, it’s how well-equipped we are to consider only ourselves and to hate “the other.” People who are scared of dying want to force decisions onto others not because they care about their peers, but because they themselves are afraid to die. If the other makes different decisions, the narrative is twisted to say that it is they who are selfish. We may mask our motivations or do the mental gymnastics to convince ourselves otherwise, but ultimately, this is the case.
There are a lot of reasons for this, and a lot of blame to go around, from profit-seeking pharmaceuticals to news editors tweaking headlines for shock value. I would argue that social media is to blame for much of our current predicament, as well, because it forces us to exist inside of a hive mind in which no deviation from the majority perspective can be tolerated.
Add to this the fact that so many have watched people they care about die from this plague. So, on top of fear driving our decision-making, now there is grief. And rage.
Let me pause to say, I get it. I do. If I thought that death were the end, I would be terrified. Even knowing that it is not, the thought of leaving my children with no father keeps me awake at night. My point here is, though, that we cannot….for the sake of our societies, our very humanity, we cannot…base our decisions, our policies, our interactions, on fear.
We must have courage. True courage, which is not the absence of fear, but rather the fortitude to continue forward despite fear.
We must have love. Love that puts others before ourselves. Imagine how differently these last two years could have gone if our decisions had been made considering the good of our neighbors before ourselves…self-sacrificial decisions based on love of those around us.
At my most pessimistic, I’m not certain that this is even possible in our digital age. I think that social media and the information onslaught has robbed us of the ability to consider others before ourselves, to react to anything in a calm frame of mind, to view the nuances of any situation with which we are confronted.
Even if this is the case, we must…absolutely must…regain these abilities somehow. Because, if we don’t, it won’t be a virus that leads to our collective demise. We will see to that ourselves.