So, how are we feeling about 2020? It sure feels like the coming year feels different in a way that I can’t remember at any other time in my life. An argument could be made that the year 2000 felt more ominous but really that was more about making sure that the world didn’t fall into complete chaos when every computer stopped working. There were technical fears, but I’m not sure that the social change was quite as strong.
2020 is a big election year (though it seems like every year is an election year). As a country our people are more divided than ever. We all have opinions. We are all adamant that our opinions are the best and that if people would only do things our way, then perhaps world peace would actually be attainable.
I’ve never been big on resolutions and I don’t know that I have the requisite experience and qualifications to be able to solve the problems of the world myself. Being the good American that I am, however, I’d like to offer my hope for 2020.
Having no authority to officially do so, I do hereby declare that what we need is this: 2020 – The Year of the Adult.
As I see the national conversations playing out in the political realm, the church realm, and just about everywhere else, it seems like we have decided to allow our leaders to get away with things that we would never allow our children to do.
Political agendas no longer need to be hidden, just declare what side you are on and be sure to take a strong stand against anyone who dares to see things differently than you. Any behavior is tolerable as long as we get what we want. People on our side of things can do whatever they want, but if carried out by the opposition we cry out with moral outrage at the wretched state of how things are.
I try my best to stay out of political conversations and frankly I avoid many controversial theological conversations. The reason is not because I lack opinions. The real reason is that I just don’t believe that what I add to the conversation will be more beneficial than the relationships that can be formed by more pressing things.
This has not always been the case. My wife will gladly tell anyone who listens that she couldn’t handle me the first time we dated in college because I had strong opinions about everything. I look back on my high school and college experience and think about relationships that never got off the ground because being right felt like the most important thing.
The temptation is there, I must admit. I see things on the news daily that make me want to rip out what is left of my increasingly disappearing hair. I see people that I love dearly post things on social media that are blatantly wrong, hateful, and contrary to what I know to be true and it takes everything in me to not speak up. As a pastor I do feel the conviction that perhaps I should be more openly engaged in the conversations, speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves. Perhaps I am wrong for not doing so and the day may come where I change the trajectory of my behavior. The real reason that I don’t do these things is because I’m not sure it would help. I do, however, believe that there is something that I absolutely believe to be true: It is time for us to start acting like adults again.
For 2020 to be the Year of The Adult, here are some things that I believe must happen:
- Embrace complexity – As much as I’d like to have a strong opinion about foreign policy in the Middle East, the truth of the matter is that I don’t understand it. If you’re honest, neither do you. Just because you heard one correspondent on Fox News or CNN or MSNBC tell you something, that doesn’t mean that they are right. Just because you saw a clever meme on social media or hear a statistic as you gather with friends, don’t assume that it is that simple. If it really was this simple, we would not be in the mess that we are in.I am not saying that everything is 50:50 or that there is never a time when something is clearly wrong. But to value complexity is to say that perhaps there is more to it than meets the eye.
- Value humility – If you are ever going to value complexity, you must be humble enough to admit that you don’t know everything. You must be willing to admit that your favorite politician is wrong about something. You must be willing to admit that your favorite pastor is wrong about something. Additionally, you must be willing to listen to people that drive you absolutely crazy because you understand that they might very well be able to teach you something from their experience. In 2020, go in willing to listen and to learn. Don’t discount your experiences, just make sure to not discount the experiences of others as well.
- Live with integrity – If we are going to demand integrity from our leaders (and I believe that we should), we must be people of integrity ourselves. We can’t rail against the hatred in the world and then go say hateful things about people that we believe are causing it. If we commit to doing the right thing all of the time, perhaps we position ourselves to demand better from those leading us. Our leaders act this way because we have allowed it and perhaps even encouraged it.
- Change the places where you are – It is too easy to spend all of our time speculating on how bad things are and how bad everyone else is messing things up. If you are upset about the state of the world, work to make the places around you better. If you care about the environment, think about what chemicals you place in your yard and our water systems. If you are upset about homelessness, volunteer at a shelter. If you love veterans, spend some time at the VA. Imagine if all of the energy spent hating the other side was used to help the problems that plague us most? Perhaps there should be a rule that in order to show moral outrage about something online you must have at least worked a few hours to actually change the situation where you are. Start small. See what God will do.
I think we all feel the weight of what 2020 will bring. It has the potential to be a huge stumbling block or an incredible springboard to bigger and better things. In order to get there, we are going to need to be adults again. Commit this year to embracing the fact that the challenges we face are complex and that in order to attack those problems we must be humble enough to admit that we do not know everything. Live lives of integrity and in doing so seek daily, practical, meaningful ways to change the communities where we live.
Enough of the childishness. 2020 is the Year of the Adult.