Does the NFL suddenly have a domestic abuse problem? Over the past few years, multiple stories have circulated about players physically and sexually abusing women. It’s sickening. Yet why is this suddenly a problem? Have brain injuries caused more violence? Do players feel more entitled? Probably not. It’s far more likely that it has become socially acceptable to make accusations of assault. And, a few cases have been caught on camera which helped everyone understand the seriousness of the problem. Had Ray Rice not been caught on camera, he probably would have never even been reprimanded for beating his girlfriend. There aren’t more assaults, there are simply more reports of assault.
Life hasn’t gotten dramatically worse; we are simply far more aware of the problems than before. The fact that the problems are in front of us makes us feel as though they are far more prevalent today. They aren’t. Ironically, many of these problems are on the decline.
Child sexual abuse has likely declined over the past few decades because we now talk about the issue and victims have the ability to say what has happened to them. In response to this, predators are stopped and put in prison.
Violence in the U.S. has dramatically dropped since the early ’90s. While it is debated why this has happened, the statistics are very clear.
The relationships between races in the U.S. are much better today than in the past. People from a variety of backgrounds have far more opportunities than they once had and the idea of racism is now widely viewed as wrong, whereas in the past it wasn’t only tolerated, but actually promoted.
Things are far better, but they feel far worse. The feeling is because we are not very discerning. Human nature tends to judge the whole by a part. Whatever we are experiencing in the moment biases our thinking into viewing everything through those experiences. Because we see more examples of evil, sorrow and brokenness, we assume the world is going the wrong direction.
While there are clear examples of struggle, do we honestly believe major issues haven’t improved in the past 100 years?
To say racism is worse today is to ignore the plight of others through the history of our country. Yes, we have serious problems, but things aren’t worse. They simply feel worse because for generations white Americans have ignored racial divides.
To say politics is worse today is to ignore the viscous history of past political processes. While I hate the rhetoric of today’s politicians, in decades past it was equally bad. In the 1960s several political officials were assassinated. Things aren’t good, but they aren’t worse.
To say morality is worse today is to ignore past failures. While I disagree with many social decisions culture has made, I applaud the improvements which have been made on many fronts. A few decades ago, my daughter would have been institutionalized, but now society values her. A century ago, my wife wouldn’t have been allowed to vote, but now she could run for President. Some things are worse, but many things are better.
Like never before, we need discernment to navigate all the information we encounter on a daily basis. Without discernment, we will foolishly conclude life is far worse than it’s ever been even when the bigger picture gives a radically different view. (See: A Forgotten Sign of Adulthood)
We have a lot of problems, but we are also making tremendous advances in a variety of areas. Mourn the problems, but don’t allow a few situations to define the whole world.