Have you had the sense we’re losing our moral bearings? Been dismayed by the outrage culture creeping into social media, rendering Twitter and Facebook more acrimonious than ever? How can we make progress toward civility?
Christians, whose faith is summarized in “love God, love neighbor,” should lead the way. But to get there, we may need help assessing what makes things so contentious.
Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt give us a big hand up in their recent book The Coddling of the American Mind. By “coddling” they mean “overprotecting,” the modern tendency to insulate one’s self from disagreement, risk, and adversity. For instance, college students are protesting assigned textbooks, and visiting speakers, not because their ideas are immoral but because they “harm” or “trigger” the student.
The authors argue that refusing to engage ideas that you disagree with, in the name of harm, actually does more damage to the self and society.
Our society has become so accustomed to comfort, that differences of opinion and the exchange of ideas are seen as threatening. They argue this is damaging to society:
We are not saying that the problems facing students, and young people more generally, are minor or ‘all in their heads.’ We are saying that what people choose to do in their heads will determine how those real problems affect them.
With this in view, they identify three Great Untruths that must be overcome:
- Untruth of Fragility: What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker (retreat from hardship and difference)
- Untruth of Emotional Reasoning: Always trust your feelings (emotional intuition trumps reason and truth)
- Untruth of Us vs. Them: Life is a battle between good people and bad people (I am good; they are bad)
They note, “Anyone who cares about young people, education, or democracy should be concerned about these trends.” I would add, anyone who care about their city, neighbor, church, small group, or children.