In days gone by canaries were used as an early warning system. In mines where methane or carbon monoxide might lurk as silent and invisible killers, a miner would take a canary below ground with him. The canary was much more sensitive to the toxic environment and would succumb to the deadly affects. The demise of the canary signalled to the miner that he ought to retreat to the surface.
The other day I was struck with the idea that perhaps I am a “canary in a coal mine”! For many years I struggled with an under lying rage. This was a manifestation of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). In the last few years I have found relief from these symptoms, which for me involved a kind of bubbling anger just below my conscious thoughts which when ‘jarred’ thrust themselves into my uppermost consciousness. The last number of weeks (perhaps months) I have sensed a slide backward into these emotions. As I was pondering this I read an article about this being a “culture of outrage”. This was an eye opening moment for me! I began to consider all the “outrage” I am exposed to every day. I believe it is affecting my mental health.
Have you noticed that there seems to be more outrage today? It is everywhere. Almost everyone I know is outraged about something. People from every stripe share in this deep sense of outrage and it is contagious!
There certainly is lots to be angry about in our fallen world. Jesus himself was angered by injustice. Anger is a benign thing that becomes cancerous when misused. I believe that the “outrage” of our culture is metastasized anger. It is anger turned unkind. Perfectly respectable opinions become expressed in disreputable and unkind ways.
“’In your anger do not sin’ : Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” – Ephesians 4:26-31
As I: engage in, or listen to, or read, the ventings of this outrage culture I am effected. My past battles make me sensitive to this. I fear that if it is effecting me that it may be effecting you. It may be doing unrealized harm to our children, indeed to all of us.
I have decided that for my own health I will turn away from outrage. I will turn towards kindness. I will be tuning out the angry noise and intentionally tuning into God and his Word. I know that Jesus became indignant and yet I do not think he ever gave himself over to popular outrage.
The folks I deal with every day do not need another angry person in their lives. The first rule of ministry, like medicine, may be “Do no harm!” Instead I want to be a person of peace and kindness. This will mean that I must cultivate that kind of spirituality. I must stop sowing weeds of outrage or putting myself in the place where they are blown on my fields and I must “put on Christ” and put myself in a position where the good seed can take root in my life.
“Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.” – Romans 13:14
It may not be easy to follow Jesus in a culture of outrage but it has never been easy to follow such a counter-cultural saviour. This ‘canary’ has decided that following Jesus is worth the difficulty.