Long time followers of this blog (in other words, my mom) know that I do this corny thing where I name the calendar years. Many of you (again, probably just my mom) will remember that 2015 was the year I sold out to suburbia. 2012 was the year my dreams came true. And 2007 was the year for getting up and moving on, just to name a few.
Over the last few weeks I have thought about this past year in my life and become convinced that there really is only one title for it, which is all ready announced above. It is a title stolen from several popular cliches, my favorite of which is, “The problem in arguing with a five year old is that in no time at all bystanders can’t figure out who is the five year old.”
This year I interacted with a lot of five year olds who are trapped in adult bodies. At key times I gave into the temptation to operate on their level and play by their rules. It didn’t work and nobody won. Unfortunately, to go into further detail about those situations would be innappropriate. It, itself would be something a five year old would do. Let me just say that today, on one of the last days of this calendar year, I find myself still grieving the fall out of a year marked by immaturity, my own above anyone else’s.
However, I take great solace in that I am not alone. National headlines this year were saturated by stories of infantile adults. I remember last January taking a good hard look at the Republican candidates for President and being somewhat surprised by the stellar list of level headed statesmen, names like Kasich, Bush and Rubio with a few others. A few months later I watched in utter horror as Donald Trump managed to get those statesmen to argue with him about what sizes their penises were.
Last October Trump gave the Democrats the same treatment when he successfully argued in a debate that because he had slept with fewer women than Bill Clinton, that made him more fit for the presidency than Hillary. And Hillary engaged him.
This year we have also watched well meaning and peaceful protesters get characterized as violent. I have read about reputable news organizations who use to deal in facts, but now deal in internet clicks and ad revenue. I have watched Christians whose entire political platform consists of “The Ten Commandments” tell more lies on the internet than any other group, despite the fact that telling the truth is one of the commandments. And we have seen an ever expanding list of celebrities become embroiled in scandals that are not really scandalous. But an overblown and easily excitable blog readership overreacted to the hint of a scandal and the celebrity over reacted to their reaction, causing a true scandal.
The rules have been changing for decades but this is the year it all came to a head and the five year olds took over.
In fact, one of the best books I read this year was written twenty years ago and is almost perfectly sripted for a time like this. Edwin Friedman, on his dying bed, typed his last plea for “calm, non anxious leadership” in “Failure of Nerve.” He argued that there was an increasing amount of anxiety in the world and only the mature, calm people could lead us out of it. But he did not type with rose covered glasses. He did not sugar coat his words. He knew and described bluntly that calm, non anxious leadership would invite a scary amount of persecution. The only thing worse than acting like a 5 year old is acting like an adult in a room full of 5 year olds. If you don’t overreact they accuse you of not understanding the severity of the situation. If you do overreact they hit you with the accusation of hypocrisy: “And you say you are the mature one!” In my case it is even more cruel. “And you call yourself a pastor!”
I tried being a five year old to save the five year olds a few times this year. It didn’t work and all I found was frustration and misery. So next year I think I’ll try being an adult again. Friedman is absolutely correct that there will probably be more misery and frustration there. But at least when 2017 draws to its close, I’ll have something I don’t have now, namely, “integrity.”