“It’s actually pretty brilliant. The protestors and the police, the progressives and the authoritarians–they require each other, they create each other, because they need an opponent to demonize. The best way to feel like you really belong to a group is to invent another group to hate.” -from Nathan Hill’s novel The Nix
If you treat people like projects for you to improve, then when they don’t want to participate in that project you will inevitably treat them as a waste of time or you will feel threatened by them–because all you are seeing in them is something that needs fixing.
But the Bible instead calls us simply to love our neighbor as ourselves. This changes the motive to intervene. Our interest in people’s growth becomes selfless because it is based on love, instead of a “need to fix” them. It changes how we intervene.
It means ‘I want to help them, but I love them even without improvement, and I love them even if the pace of improvement is considerably slower or different from what “I” wanted.’
That is giving up control. It re-humanizes people so that we treat them like people and not just ‘projects.’
“Public language has also become demoralized. Google ngrams measure word usage across media. Google scans the contents of books and publications going back decades. You can type in a word and see, over the years, which words have been used more frequently and which less frequently. Over the past few decades there has been a sharp rise in the usage of individualist words and phrases like “self” and “personalized,” “I come first” and “I can do it myself,” and a sharp decline in community words like “community,” “share,” “united,” and “common good.” The use of words having to do with economics and business has increased, while the language of morality and character building is in decline. Usage of words like “character,” “conscience,” and “virtue” all declined over the course of the twentieth century.26Usage of the word “bravery” has declined by 66 percent over the course of the twentieth century. “Gratitude” is down 49 percent. “Humbleness” is down 52 percent and “kindness” is down 56 percent.” -David Brooks, The Road to Character
“Very little that is positive is solitary. . . . Other people are the best antidote to the downs of life and the single most reliable up.” -Martin Seligman
George Vaillant, the director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, which has followed more than two hundred men since the late 1930s to find what makes for the happiest and most fulfilling lives, concluded, “The only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people.”
• The “Very Happy People” survey assessed the top 10 percent of very happy people and found that they “were highly social, and had stronger romantic and other social relationships than less happy groups.”
• An empirical study of well-being among sixteen hundred Harvard undergraduates discovered that the greatest predictor of happiness was not GPA, SAT scores, family income, gender, or age, but social support.
• National surveys find that when someone claims to have five or more friends with whom she can discuss important problems, she is 60 percent more likely to say that she is “very happy.”
David Murray, The Happy Christian