Friday, February 24, 2017

Quiet Desperation



Thoreau said, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Lately, I’ve been reminded of that in several ways. I’ve seen the desperation in other people, a desperation that feels all too familiar.

It’s no revelation that we all struggle and that we all mask our struggles. We pretend that we’re alright, that we’re functioning adults. Part of growing up is learning that adults don’t know it all. Adults don’t have it all together. We’re still scared little children, just with more scars. We pretend that we know what we’re doing, because otherwise, society would cease to function. We put out a stiff upper lip, put on a mask, and get on with it.

And then we get home at the end of the day, and the insincerity, doubt, unfulfilled dreams, and regrets creep back in. When drowning in your own struggles, it’s difficult to see that everyone else is struggling too. But that isolation only makes it all worse.

Recently a friend said, “Some days it feels like I’m alone in the desert and some days it feels like everybody is here.” I found it a comforting statement. There are others struggling too. My fear, loneliness, and desperation do not make me weird; they make me human. Is there anything more reassuring than hearing, “I understand. Me too.”?

Connecting to someone at a real level, where you take off the mask and reveal your weaknesses, is one of the best ways to fight evil. You see the child of God behind the adult. You see that your struggle need not be a solitary one. Your souls delight in the reminder that you are not alone. C. S. Lewis said, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.’”

With Lent beginning, it’s important to remember that we are called to the desert, but we don’t have to go alone. We are part of a community. We are all suffering. We are all working toward the same goal. The journey will be less desperate if we can just look one another in the eye and say, “Me too.”

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