My devotion this morning was Forgive.
In order to forgive myself or others, I don’t need to justify or approve behavior that’s unwelcome. That’s true, but I find it easier to forgive when I understand why we’re doing things that are reckless, ridiculous or generally upsetting.
Yesterday there was a protest downtown held by a group of people who don’t want their freedoms infringed on by the pandemic. The video footage was fascinating. One of the protesters was a little girl holding a sign that said, “We will NOT comply”. She has a fan club of other 7 year olds who also hate bedtime and rules in general. Her unmasked mother was cheering her on. I listened to an interview with one of the grown up protesters. He appeared to be an educated, rational person with purely good intentions and yet, his justifications for objecting to current public safety measures made me think of Swiss Cheese. It’s creamy, dreamy and sounds delicious, but it’s got a few holes in it.
The pandemic seems to have created a collective delusion for some of us. The rest of us are just exhausted from the moral fatigue of deciding whether or not we want to risk our lives for a late night snack run to the supermarket. I really want Ben and Jerry’s but I don’t think I have the energy to wash my hands, put on a mask, drive to the store, deal with people, drive home, Lysol my shoes, remove my mask, wash my hands again, sanitize my pint and then worry for the next week that I might get sick. Is my sweet tooth worth dying for? Ugh. Maybe I should buy my own cow.
Collective delusion is actually a behavior phenomenon called Shared Psychosis. It happens when a group of people become enmeshed in each other’s version of reality; we see it on psych units, nations in crisis, super fans of sports teams, cult victims and, to lesser degrees, families experiencing various hardships. It can also show up in individual relationships. We adopt beliefs that align with whatever we think will help us get our needs met with the least amount of discomfort, disruption or loss. Think of our perceptions across spectrums survival, resources and readiness. We might not tell ourselves we’re waiting to find a replacement for an abusive partner but until we swipe across that new special someone, we’ll convince ourselves that our Mr. Wrong is just right. Or, in history books we might relabel genocide as famine because it sounds less horrific. Hey man, it’s not my fault all their potatoes died.
Perception begins in our brain and shifts according to a variety of internal and external factors; race, gender, nationality, temperament, socioeconomic status, culture, interpersonal experiences, whether or not we like cilantro. Everything from psychosis to denial is ultimately intended to protect us from dying of shock, or, at the very least, living in fear until we can arrive at peaceful acceptance. Do these jeans make me look fat?
We question or deny the truth to varying degrees until we’re equipped to face and embrace it. No one can force us to see things a certain way, nor should they. Wearing rose colored glasses isn’t always such a bad thing. There’s a joke about two patients on a psych unit who both believe they’re the Messiah. One of them leaves the unit cured. The other is still there to this day “performing miracles”.
None of us want to be impacted by a life threatening, global virus that’s killed over a million people and fundamentally deconstructed life as we once knew it. None of us want to be impacted by or responsible for war, climate change, natural disasters, homelessness, mass shootings, wildfires, addiction, homicide, suicide, unwanted pregnancy, child abuse, human trafficking, racism, sexism, classism, mass incarceration, bad fashion or doing the personal and systemic work of addressing the absolute root of all biopsychosocialspiritual discontent: TRAUMA, but guess what? That’s reality. I know, total bummer. This virus is just a parallel macro of the pre-existing macro. Both are very big deals but one is like holding up a magnifying glass to a mirror. See.
There’s stuff in the world that’s powerful, harmful and scary, like faux fur. Yikes. There’s also a ton of beauty and goodness, like enlightenment, butterflies and eating three kinds of pie in one day. It’s all been here since the beginning. We can embrace it and support each other in our healing, or we can continue repeatedly running into brick walls till it kills us, or someone else. I speak from experience. Despite being really flexible and having two legs, there are a few brick walls in my life I haven’t quite managed to break through.
For better or worse, we’re all empowered with the history making magic of free will and forgiveness. xo
Join me in my delusion of forgiveness and world peace.