This article originally posted 2 years ago but the recent onslaught of 24/7 news stories ranging from terrorism to elections to investigations to “fill-in-the-blank” has prompted me to share again.
I once worked with a personal trainer who started my 150 hours with her by doing an evaluation of my current fitness level. I admit; I went into the whole thing a little proud of myself. At the time, I was a pretty active person and I was able to do more physically than many in similar shape. At the end of the evaluation, she looked at me and said matter-of-factly, “We are going to spend the next few sessions on balance. You have the worst balance I’ve ever seen and without balance and core strength, the rest of what we are going to do won’t work. You need a good foundation.”
Balance? Really? I wanted to be fit and trim not learn how to stand up straight. Our next session she began running me through a battery of balancing exercises. From a distance, these simple movements appeared simple and effortless. In actuality, they were the hardest things I’d ever done physically. My whole body hurt afterwards.
She was right. I had terrible balance. She even targeted my weak side and made me work on it the most and by golly, I could hardly walk afterwards. My balance affected everything and it was absolutely holding me back from the other exercises I deemed most important.
So why do I share all this with you?
Because I am starting to think as a society, we lack balance, and without balance, we are building on a weak foundation. And the repercussions of that on the next generation from a distance may look like no big deal, but in actuality, could be creating major problems for our kids that we can’t even see.
Recently, the New York Times printed an article entitled What is a Constant Cycle of Violent News doing to Us? It’s a question I have been asking myself, so I had to read it (as I encourage you to do as well). Basically the answer is “Not good things.”
According to the article, “living in a digitally linked world where broadcasts of violence are instantaneous and almost commonplace means that many of us are becoming desensitized” and that “that exposure to violent imagery on social media can cause symptoms that are similar to post-traumatic stress disorder, defined as a persistent emotional reaction to a traumatic event that severely impairs one’s life.“
From watching and hearing the news? Doesn’t that seem a bit dramatic?
I don’t think so. I think it is spot on.
I think the reality of this constant flow of news into our homes, cars, screens, and lives has to have an affect on us as a people. And while I would never advocate for ignorance or withdrawing from society and pretending these things don’t exist, I do think as parents and ministers it behooves us to demonstrate for our children and youth the necessary practice of balance and Sabbath rest.
Even the article mentioned above shares, “If you have children, the American Psychological Association recommends asking them how they are feeling about the news. Keep in mind that it is possible for children to be influenced by news reports and the adult conversations around them.”
Children are not immune to what is happening.
They “read” us even if they can’t read the news. For example the article shares, “Going out of your way to avoid interacting with strangers — by taking mass transit, for example — can stoke fear and anxiety in children.” Children read our emotions and our actions and use it as a framework to approach their world.
They “hear” us even if they can’t hear the radio. Our verbal reactions become their language for approaching their world. If fear and worry lace our words, if anger and frustration overlay our tone, and if despair and hopelessness fill our speech, they hear it, even if they don’t understand it.
They “feel” us even if they can’t feel for those in the news. Children don’t necessarily have the emotional tools to feel empathy of others, especially those they don’t know. But children have the uncanny ability to pick up on what adults in their lives are feeling and it concerns them. Have you ever had a child ask you why or if you were sad? They can pick up on more than we realize because they are always with us and always watching us, learning from us how to approach life.
And thus, balance. Balance offers us and them a chance to see things from more than one perspective.
I’m not saying we should ignore all the heartache in this world and to deny the existence of these difficult things. I am saying we should make sure that we purposefully seek out the good as well.
The good won’t be dished out to us 24/7 by the media and piped into our home over the airways.
It will take work on our part to “see the helpers” as Mr. Rogers shared.
It will take action on our part to get up and be the good in the world so our children can see us participating instead of insulating.
It will take intentionality for us to withdraw from the news for a time, to turn off the TV, turn down the radio, shut the computer screen, and allow space for rest and peace and reminders of the good.
I am learning this myself. As an outgoing, extroverted, empathetic person, these news stories take a personal toll on my heart. I am sad, so very sad. I cry and I believe God cries with me. I am not unaware of the grief and heartache of this world. But, I am learning that in my sadness, I must remember joy is just as much a reality. And for the sake of my children, I need to approach each situation with balance and grace; resting from the constant stream of bad news and instead intentionally seeking out the good.
What about you? What are some ways that you seek to create and find balance? How do you help the next generation approach the world around them with a healthy focus? I’d love to hear your thoughts and share with each other how we can be in the world but not of it in a way that isn’t isolating, but engaging; not wearying, but life-giving.
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- Kids in Worship
- Determining which Type of Family Ministry model works best for your church
- Discipleship in Intergenerational community
- Encouraging the continued conversation through Practical Discipleship at Home
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About the author
Christina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and church planter at Plowshares BIC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, Seedbed, and ChildrensMinistryBlog.com