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  • Pastor Nancy Switzler

Everything Isn't Terrible! Part 7

 Dear Friends,

This last part is titled " Your Anxious World". Chapters discuss smartphones and social media religion and politics and it concludes with a look at the long game. I think we can all agree that our world is pretty anxious and we can probably all learn better ways to be present in this world... ways that are helpful and not harmful to us and to others. Following are some quotes from these chapters, followed by some of my own thoughts.

On social media and smartphones

“A smartphone’s computing power is millions of times more powerful than the ones that got us to the moon. But its most troublesome feature is its ability to transmit our anxiety to others at any given moment.” 

This sentence reminds me of the times I get troubled by something, and immediately send a text to somebody, or start scrolling, or make a comment on a post that I would later regret. I once thought that I could engage in some of these difficult topics on social media but learned the hard way that real discussion cannot happen in that venue-sometimes it's better to just keep scrolling.

“Researchers have found that social media use can improve well-being when our interactions build stronger connections with people (instead of silently lurking on the profiles of strangers).” 

As I just mentioned above, social media is not the place to have arguments with people about what's right and wrong in the world. But it is possible to build connection while also being your own self and sharing your own views, if you can be respectful. In this context, you may even be helpful on social media. One challenge though is that we need to be honest about who we really are on social media. I sometimes try to model this by posting things about parts of my life that are not going well or times I've messed up , so that hopefully others can see that they are not alone when they struggle. Sometimes the responses to these posts are interesting.

On politics and religion

“In every relationship system, certain subjects have a history of causing drama. The memory of this anxiety is enough to stress anyone out, and most often are impulses to avoid the subject altogether.” 

Reading this sentence reminds me of conversations with my dad. We didn't always agree on things and there would be times when I would make a comment and then think to myself, “why did I say that?” That said, we were able to disagree with one another without being disagreeable to one another and I will always treasure that. I think our world today needs more of us to work really hard at learning to disagree without being disagreeable.

Sometimes though we try and just avoid any kind of confrontation. The author talks about this as one of the ways we try and avoid anxiety and she invites us to go on a scavenger hunt to recognize the ways that we react to potential anxiety evoking events. Here's her list. Which ones of these do you do or do you recognize within your family or other social groups?

  • changing the conversation topic 

  • playing devil's advocate to be contrary 

  • debating to win the argument 

  • agreeing with someone to keep things calm 

  • trying to be the peacemaker 

  • gossiping in the corner of the room 

  • lecturing everyone on how to be mature 

  • not showing up at all.

“Perhaps the most useful question you can ever ask yourself is what is my part in the dance? Note that this is different from asking what is my fault? Because everyone contributes to the process, everyone plays a role.” 

The above list of responses or reactions is a helpful tool for us to see what parts we play in the "dance". It's important to recognize that she says dance and not fault because it is true that we all have roles to play and we can learn to play our parts better. Of course when we learn to react differently, as mentioned earlier in this book, everyone around us isn't going to say ohh wonderful. But that's OK because learning to be oneself and to be healthy in our interactions is an ongoing life process.

On the long game

“People will tell you that if you're not reactive in today's world, you're not paying attention. But does the world need more reactivity? Or does it need more people guided by their principles rather than the anxiety of the moment.” 

I think the church can play a very important role in bringing down the temperature of our polarized society. All we have to do is to not react to everything that confronts us but to work together and build capacity amongst ourselves and within ourselves to respond in ways that are healthy.

I think that any time we can harness tools that help us deal with anxiety we will be better off. A one-sentence summary could be: We function better when we learn to be responsible for ourselves. I love talking about all of this stuff so please feel free to contact me if you have any comments or questions or just want to share some stories.

Peace in Christ,

Pastor Nancy

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