The Destructive Impact of a Lack of Humility in Our Nation
When I used to do marriage counseling, there were certain attitudes on the part of one, or both, spouses that I knew would doom a marriage. If I could not get them to empathize with one another or see things from their partner’s perspective, I knew it was just a matter of time before they’d be standing before a judge confirming the irreparable rift I was already seeing. When these couples came in for counseling the following mindsets were apparent in at least one spouse.
- I’m here to fix my spouse and don’t need to look at myself.
- I’m right and he or she is wrong. There is no room for compromise.
- When my spouse doesn’t agree with me, I judge his or her motives (self-righteousness).
- When my spouse doesn’t agree with me, I harshly criticize or punish.
As I watch the headlines, I see all of the elements of a doomed marriage playing out in our nation. We have lost our ability to compromise and automatically judge the motives of those who don’t conform to our way of thinking. The latest issues have just brought to a head what has been lying deep beneath the surface for several years now. I was recently criticized on social media for discouraging violent protests and encouraging peaceful ones. The inference was that condemning violence was borderline racist. As someone who lived through and stood up with activists during the civil rights movement, I couldn’t imagine how my comments could have been so misconstrued, but it happens so often these days (from people on both sides) that I’ve become afraid to even state a simple opinion. My freedom of speech has surely been stifled. Somewhere along the way we’ve lost our way and without a miracle I fear that division we are seeing will destroy us as a nation.
I remember a time not too long ago when Americans of differing opinions were able to respectfully debate one another. When I went to college, I naturally carried the beliefs I inherited from my parents. I was a political science major, and during the final years of my undergraduate training, I took a few seminars on the philosophy of politics. In those classes, I got to hear both sides[i] of issues, and often found myself questioning the logic behind my beliefs. I had never really taken the time to listen to both sides of these issues. I simply assumed I was right, because that’s what I had been told most of my life, and because like-minded people tend to stick together so I had never really been exposed to people who believed differently than me. It was an eye-opening experience that broadened my perspective and even gave me the ability to understand and respect people with varied political viewpoints.
After college I stayed intensely interested and involved in politics. I always felt my voice and vote made a difference, but over the last few decades I’ve come to believe otherwise. It seems politicians have capitalized on our division over social issues. They’ve learned to use our passions to divide us to get our focus off of the fact that the vast majority of our elected officials (on both sides of the aisle) are being bought by special interests and promoting big money agendas. The average American has no idea of how many laws these special interests get passed, and with many of them the tradeoff is a loss of freedom in the name of the common good– but I digress, the point is we have become so polarized as a people that we are no longer able to work together. Instead, like doomed married couples, we judge one another and refuse to consider the validity of our opponents’ arguments. We are right and they are wrong. There is no middle ground. If they disagree, we start accusing them of cruelty and claim to be victims.[ii] Simply disagreeing isn’t cruelty, but when we have self-righteous attitudes, we see differing opinions as threats.
As a counselor who specializes in abuse, I know that people with self-righteous, judgmental mindsets often seek to control partners who don’t agree with them. Everything becomes about power and control rather than relationship. As a result, they usually shut their partners down and refuse to listen. They block any of their attempts to voice concerns, and successful resolution of conflict becomes impossible. Communication is impossible. This is where we are as a nation. We are unable to resolve our conflicts and are becoming increasingly hostile towards one another. In a marriage the end result would be divorce, for this nation I fear it could mean something even worse. Our only hope is a miracle from God, and that is what I’m praying.
Lord, send revival to our broken land and heal us. Amen
[i] And I mean both sides. Back then debate was encouraged. I am not sure that is the case these days.
[ii] This statement comes from a counselor who works almost exclusively with victims of abuse, and guess what I’ve learned over the years? Victims of abuse rarely claim that they are abused while abusers do it all the time. A common technique used by abusers is called DARVO, which stands for Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim & Offender. Seems common on a societal level these days.