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As we look for solutions to the problems that plague the country, I think it’s sometimes helpful to look past the surface and dig deeper to what might be called indirect causes. That’s what this offering attempting to do. Certainly, no big problem is caused by just one thing, but could there be one or two common indirect causes to more than one problem. I kind of think so. Here, I want to suggest one of those possible indirect causes.
I hope you didn’t misread the title of this little of this post. I’m not suggesting that our nation has an identity crisis, though that may be the case. I suspect that hundreds of millions of our fellow citizens (and probably all of us to some degree or another) are suffering from a personal crisis of identity. People of not sure of who they are and what they are supposed to do, and in their grasping for identity, they engage in certain behaviors, some of which are benign, and others that are damaging.
A person’s self-identity, in my estimation, comes from two primary areas: a sense of belonging and a sense of purpose. We all desperately want to matter to someone, be it through a relationship or through an accomplishment. While mattering to others has at times been a tenuous prospect, our society makes our mattering even more challenging than in the past. The breakdown of the family has contributed, as have the emergence of isolating technologies and the changes in how people earn a living. What has emerged is a nation of underemployed and isolated people who are lonely and bitter.
The results run from the innocuous to the dangerous. Results all along the spectrum may include sports fanaticism, racial division, the rise in people getting tattoos, gangs, drug and alcohol dependence, a dropping birth rate, gender dysphoria as a trend, hyper-partisan politics, mass shootings, and conspiracy theories.
People need to know that they matter. They need to know that they have intrinsic value, but they also need to find a place where they can belong and make a difference. As with so many things of tremendous importance, government is largely powerless to help. Solving this problem will come from us. Our families and our churches and our communities must rededicate ourselves to the simple tasks of respecting, serving, and welcoming others. Maybe then, people will become less isolated and less desperate, and less angry.Published in