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All Falls Down

We live in some interesting times. I find that I am often blown away by the actions of individuals. As much as we profess to care about others, I find that more people are concerned about how things impact them and how they are made to feel. I think for so long we’ve been conditioned to believe that it’s all about us. I remember as a young woman when there was so much discussion about the self-esteem of young people and the importance of validation. What began as a critical conversation resulted in giving everyone participation points or passing the entire class because we didn’t want to hurt the feelings of others. In a desire to promote healthy self-perception, I think it developed such a focus on self that we failed to find the balance in knowing the interrelated nature of self and community. We failed to make the correlation that our decisions can have either a direct or indirect impact on the lives of others.

The Butterfly Effect is a concept used in meteorology, economics and other fields that describe a phenomenon. Mathematician Edward Lorenz noted that if a butterfly flaps its wings in one part of the world, it can create a tornado somewhere else. A very small, unanticipated change can create a very different outcome. The reality is that small or large occurrences happen and can create circumstances that we are not able to predict. We don’t live in the world in isolation.

So many things in our world have become so political that we have failed to pay attention to the impact of our decisions on the lives of those around us. Whether to have the vaccine or not, to believe that global warming is real or not, or other issues that divide us, we have lost the ability to see things from the perspective of others. We have failed to understand caring for our neighbor and the interconnectivity we have with one another. A neighbor isn’t necessarily the person who lives next door to you. The Bible reminds us of the importance of our neighbors, of those who we share space within our communities, in our world and that their well-being is important. “No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.” (1 Corinthians 10:24) The Bible commands us to love one another: “Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:1-2) My mother always would tell me as a child this scripture. What would happen if we thought that everyone we encountered was an angel and God was watching our interaction? I bet it would not only change the way we saw others, but we would be more intentional in the way we interacted.

It’s deeper than just loving our neighbor. It really boils down to how we see ourselves. We have a world of people that no matter how many participation points, awards for everyone on the team, and passing grades, whose self-worth is minimal. Their self-worth is found in stuff. In an article by researchers, Zheng and Hawk (2019), “self-esteem is inversely correlated with people’s general materialistic values, purchasing expensive brands, or valuing of material possessions. Those who emphasize low interdependence enhance and maintain self- esteem through personal success, fulfillment of personal desires, and the validation of their abilities and unique inner attributes. In contrast, the bases of self-esteem for highly interdependent individuals are group harmony and associations with others.” In other words, when we don’t find importance in others, we find it in stuff which makes it easy to disregard others and that what we do impacts them. The Bible states, “For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14) If we don’t love ourselves, it is going to be so hard to love our neighbors.

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