I’ve been working on a story about racism and how local faithful are responding to the topic. I’m very encouraged by the conversations happening in this regard, and I look forward to sharing that piece here on Friday.
One of the ideas emerging in this discussion involves the difficulty in simply having the discussion. The “Gotcha!” culture, as it’s been called, has, to large extent, kept us bound and feeling beaten.
Cue the conversations on social media. One of the men I interviewed said nobody wins an argument on Facebook or Twitter. It’s almost futile to try because the “Gotcha!” culture will “getcha” every time.
The media shares the blame. A 24-7 news cycle demands a continual “feeding of the beast.” Because of the pressure of producing constant news, “If it bleeds it leads” becomes the driving force. Overshadowed, stories of real life, positive happenings, and people reaching across the divide go into hiding, while those marking division and destruction dominate.
And we take in this negativity constantly. Unless we are very diligent about protecting ourselves from it, we, the consumers, become the consumed.
It’s the main reason I walked away from television years ago, watching it only rarely now when a specific need arises. It wasn’t feeding my soul. But that’s not even enough, because news never naps. If we have Internet access, there it will be. We also need to stay somewhat informed. Becoming hermits won’t help us navigate the world well.
But it’s also true that what we ingest will manifest into what we bring others. While important for everyone, being vigilant in this area is even more incumbent upon those called to be “salt of the earth.” By only taking in negative, reactive responses, becoming leaven and light will prove impossible.
The “Gotcha!” culture is toxic. The expectation of needing an immediate response to every issue – right now! – makes for an unhealthy life. We become driven by our emotions. And in failing to pause, we often overlook the heart. In our drive to be right, we become blind to the soul right in front of us.
Sadly, this drives wedges between strangers, friends and even among family members.
The conversations I’ve observed and taken part in through preparing this forthcoming piece, however, bring hope. Participants, slowing down deliberately and pausing to pray, have dared to have difficult discussions without the “Gotcha!” element. What a difference it makes.
Seeing this modeled brings renewed promise to our wounded world. “United we stand, divided we fall” goes the 1972 song by Sonny and Cher. What if we, together, defy the “Gotcha!” culture? Might this be a way to transcend these challenging times, not divided but united and whole?
Through thoughtful restraint, and choosing kindness over cutting remarks, we can turn hate into harmony. Instead of “Gotcha!”, maybe we could give another Sonny and Cher song with similar words its due: “I Got You, Babe.”
[For the sake of having a repository for my newspaper columns and articles, I reprint them here, with permission, a week after their run date. The preceding ran in The Forum newspaper on July 6, 2020.]