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The Courage to Change

08/18/2017 | Comments

          There’s a lot of anger in the world right now.  I have never really thought of myself as an angry person, and I have given many homilies and much advice in the confessional about the corrosive nature of anger and how it can really ruin one’s life and distort one’s perspective, but there are days when I do feel angry.

          I feel kind of angry today.  At the risk of whining, there are a lot of little things that make me angry: the difficulty of getting parishes to help with campus ministry dinners, the guy who was at my downtown lunch spot with huge font profanity on his t-shirt, the rude things I see on social media.  I know. I know: first world problems. 

          But I’m also feeling angry about what I see in the bigger picture around me: crazy racists marching down the street, people tearing down statues instead of rationally addressing the underlying issues of racism and bigotry, homeless veterans, cars mowing down people in Spain, living in a country where we abort our children without batting an eye, elected officials acting like bratty toddlers instead of addressing serious political concerns, hearing about how the Pikes Peak region has one of the highest rates of teen suicide in the country, an abject disregard for the poor and marginalized, living in a world where we are more concerned about checking our Facebook status than making time for one another.  I could go on.  This isn’t an exhaustive list, and hopefully I have equally offended every segment of the political spectrum.

Maybe the thing that makes me the angriest is the complete inability of anyone in our society to have a polite discussion with someone about an issue over which they disagree.  I feel like we live in the most polarized of times, and that does make me angry.  It also makes me sad.

There is, of course, such a thing as a righteous anger.  One good example of that is Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple.  I think a lot of the issues we face as a country and a society qualify as things that can and should make us angry (and please note the difference between anger and violence or disrespect of others).

And yet, after a lot of prayer this week, I’ve come to the conclusion that complaining about all of these things will not change them.  Getting angry about them won’t change them.  Posting an irate social media post about them won’t change them.  Because we are the problem — each one of us individually.

Change has to begin with us, and until we work on our own lives, our own relationship with one another, and our own relationship with God, it’s insane for us to think the world around us will change. 

Some examples: It is impractical for us to be outraged about the language our President uses when we listen to expletive laden music.  It’s hard to understand how someone different than us thinks when we only socialize with people who are exactly like us, and it’s certainly ridiculous for us to be outraged about terrorism and war when we don’t care about how the poor are treated, abortion, or the death penalty. 

Maybe it’s time for us to look inward.  This isn’t meant to be one of those posts that shames everyone.  But it could be a good challenge.  It’s a challenge we all need.

I was watching one of those summer singing competition shows last evening, and one of the contestants sang Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror.”  It’s kind of a corny song, but the lyrics seem pretty spot on right now-at least to me.

“If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make a change.”  It’s never too late for us to be the change we want to see in the world.