Perspectives: An alternative to letting others live rent-free in our heads

Composite image, St. George News

OPINION — It’s not your imagination. The frequency and intensity of high drama is on the rise throughout our society.

The division we’re experiencing is quite real. Yet, too often it’s the product of a deliberate choice.

Case in point, last week I shared a photo on social media of a former president openly ogling a young woman as she performed at another celebrity’s funeral. There was no political goal in sharing the image, just a tongue-in-cheek observation that the adage that “a leopard can’t change his spots” seems to hold true.

Most of those who reacted to the photo had a good laugh at the more base side of human nature at work. But a couple of friends had a far different reaction.

They demanded to know why the current president wasn’t being denounced for his alleged sexual improprieties. When other commenters suggested that the complainers lighten up and leave their political baggage at the curb, they doubled down instead.

Angry memes began to appear. Name-calling, virtue signaling and the questioning of one another’s parentage ensued. Before the dust finally settled, grade point averages were being thrown about like gang signs and ultimatums were issued.

Imagine if we could get worked up like that over something that actually mattered.

Maybe you’ve seen something similar in the recent discussions surrounding a protesting NFL player and his corporate sponsor?

Those who are reacting with such passionate intensity have something in common – they are allowing these public figures to live, rent-free, in their heads. When I’ve spent time with these friends who are so easily angered, I’ve noticed how their focus always seems to be on the individual they despise.

It’s what they constantly talk about. The TV shows and media content they consume tend to only feed and confirm their obsessive hostility toward people with whom they’ve never personally interacted before.

Does that sound like a healthy or well-adjusted way to live one’s life?

It’s one thing to find annoyance or disagreement in another person or an idea. But to be preoccupied with someone to the point that our only thought is to find ways to tear them down seems a bit pathological.

This kind of thinking is manifest in a number of ways and it’s definitely not limited to one corner of the political spectrum.

It can be seen in the infantile displays of narcissism on college campuses when protesters try to interrupt and shout down invited guest speakers. It can take the form of anonymous trolling on the internet where individuals who lack the conviction to sign their names to their words, still demand to be taken seriously.

Sometimes it manifests as publicly gloating over another person’s misfortune or mistakes. Occasionally, it takes the form of genuine hate mail, which represents a tangible receipt for living rent-free in another person’s mind.

The bigger question is whether such drama changes the world in any way for the better. If we find ourselves engaging in these types of obsessive behavior, we may want to try using our moral energy more wisely.

We can always consider the wisdom of the unknown author who wrote:

“People with purpose, goals and visions have no time for drama. They invest their energy in creativity and focus on living a positive life.”

Another way to state it might be, what’s in your heart is more important than who is living rent-free in your head. If we find ourselves being defined by who or what we are against, it’s likely that we’re missing the opportunity to stand for something worthwhile.

Recently, my oldest daughter was relating to me how she and her husband have made a weekly goal to find someone within their church congregation who needs their help.

This help can take the form of a plate of cookies, anonymously delivered to someone’s doorstep with an encouraging note attached, or it can be something more direct. For instance, my son-in-law, who is a journeyman electrician, was able to help their neighbor whose home was having electrical problems.

The bottom line is that they are actively looking for others who need a bit of a boost. This requires that they pay attention to the people around them to discern their needs and struggles.

Instead of trying to stake a claim on the moral high ground through simply declaring themselves to be against perceived unrighteousness, they are doing the actual work of lifting those who need help.

I appreciate the example they’re setting. It reminds me that setting our political baggage aside not only frees us from pointless contention and conflict, but it also empowers us to voluntarily direct our efforts into solving real problems.

We can still exert political influence, if we choose. We just won’t be as tempted to mistake the choice to obsess over public personalities as a suitable substitute for having character.

Bryan Hyde is an opinion columnist specializing in current events and liberty viewed through what he calls the lens of common sense. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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