With all the political tension and social evolution we are experiencing now, it is no wonder that anxiety disorders “are the most common mental illness in the United States” (Medicalnewstoday.com). I think this is why we are seeing an increase in hate crimes. Anxiety can lead to fear, and fear leads to hate.
This thought has been rolling around in my mind for some time. I have been trying to come up with a rational reason why there is so much hate in our society. I think it has to do with the way things have been changing so rapidly.
Cultural change used to take centuries. Now it can happen in a decade, sometimes even less. We have very little time to adjust to the new norm. I could never have predicted just 20 years ago that such retail giants like Kmart or Sears would be closing stores or that the Internet would change the way I watch television or teach a class.
When I was a news director back in the 1980s, I remember doing a story on Black Friday. It was more of an explanation about how the term came about. One explanation was the Christmas shopping season was about to begin and therefore the retailers would begin to make a profit, to go from red ink to black ink.
I wasn’t sure if that’s how it really got its name (I didn’t have Google then), but it seemed as good an explanation as any. No one really cared anyways because it was only the day after Thanksgiving then. Now look at what it has become in just a few decades.
Our society has gone through social upheaval as well. In fact, the change is so rapid at times that I can’t keep up. I have honestly asked “Can I still say that?” a few times just to be sure I can. We all self-censor because the culture is changing and what was once acceptable is no longer acceptable. I am not saying what we used to do or say was right. I am just pointing out how quickly things have changed.
This kind of upheaval can be unnerving. It can also lead to anxiety because it is as if we no longer live in the same world we knew just a couple of decades ago. The fact is we aren’t.
Anxiety is normal in times like these, but there are some who need help with managing it. I am one of them. The problem is when someone allows their anxiety to grow into fear.
Some people feel marginalized in this new social order, an order that is becoming more inclusive than exclusive, more accepting of different lifestyles and ways of doing things. They feel as if the power they thought they had when the world was theirs is slipping away.
This belief in the loss of power leads to fear, and that fear then leads to hatred—the hatred of the people they blame for the change.
Unfortunately, those with actual power know they can exploit this fear and channel the hatred in whatever direction they want it to go. Fear leads to hatred which leads to manipulation. We are watching this formula being played out daily, sometimes with deadly consequences.
There is so much going on around us right now that it is not surprising to see that we are becoming more anxious. What we have to do is not allow that anxiety to become fear because that will lead to hate.
The antidote to fear and hate as well as those who manipulate them is trust in something greater than ourselves, which is what we celebrate this time of year.
Maybe we just need to remember the words of the angel to the shepherds. “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”