Resisting the Slide of Fatalism

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I am a news junkie. It’s an addiction and no addiction is ever good. Right now that addiction is seriously interfering with work that I must get done. It’s not just the time wasted surfing the internet and listening to the radio. It’s what all this bad news is doing to my head and my heart.

I can feel fatalism knocking at the door. The dictionary defines it as, “the acceptance of all things and events as inevitable; submission to fate.” Fatalism can often be confused with faith but that is a misperception.

With faith, we trust in a higher power (for Christians, God). The scriptures wax eloquent about how we are made in the image and likeness of God and how, despite our rejection of him, he does not reject us. Instead, he took on our human form and experience to show us that there was hope beyond suffering and death. When we claim this hope, our lives become meaningful and we are led to great actions.

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God reminds us of his care of us in the beauty of his world. Photo by Susan Bailey.

Fatalism, however, has the opposite effect: it fuels despair and inaction. You perceive the world around you as hopeless; you are overwhelmed and you retreat. Your work, your life all begin to lose meaning.

The recent news has been particularly horrendous, first with the death of Michael Brown followed by violence, riots and looting in Ferguson, MO. Then there was the unspeakable beheading of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff videotaped for the world to see. The talk of another possible 9-11 terrorist attack on our shores and the prospect of global war reached a fevered pitch. I could feel that first trickle of fatalism creeping into my psyche. I willed myself away from the TV, radio and internet and took a break.

Fatalism works against God’s will. I am in the middle of preparing a manuscript for publication. It has a due date that I must meet. This requires retreating to my writer’s room and blocking out all other thoughts except for the work at hand. The slow poison of fatalism is making this difficult. I have begun to question the reason for doing this work. How can writing away in basement room have any effect on mitigating what is going on in the world? How can my hidden work comfort the Christians persecuted and killed for their faith? How can writing take care of the poor souls stricken with the Ebola virus? What can a single person do to let an increasingly stubborn, blind, deaf world know that there is a God, that He brings peace; that He means to heal us; that His love seeks to free us rather than to bind us?

I worry too about being persecuted for my faith like the Christians in Iraq. Many have died in the same fashion as Foley and Sotloff and I wonder: could I exhibit their bravery? It is reported that Foley was a devout Catholic who regularly prayed the rosary. I can barely look at their pictures because I feel that phantom pain on my neck where each was beheaded, accompanied by the pit in my stomach. I wonder if either of them felt the consolation of God in the midst of their terror. In their minds and hearts did they cry out like Jesus to his Father, feeling abandoned? Did their thoughts turn to Heaven? What would I do?

This is why Jesus admonishes us to “not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34) He knows that too much knowledge of the future can be overwhelming. Such knowledge can encourage fatalism.

The media presents a distorted view of the world, exaggerating the evil and missing the good. Evil is perceived as “glamorous” while good doesn’t make for high ratings. Evil is done for show while true good is done in secret. Embedded among the weeds of evil is the wheat of countless people, quietly doing good things. They pray and they worship. They are faithful in doing their work. They visit the sick. They encourage and befriend those who are feeling down. They take care of their families. All done with fidelity, all done in secret. These pockets of goodness spread throughout the world remind us that our quiet works do mean something and do make a difference.

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Like flowers embedded in the landscape, there are pockets of goodness throughout our world. Photo by Susan Bailey

Only God knows how all things work together for the good. We each are meant to play our small parts, working with fidelity and intent.

There is no room for fatalism in this plan. Rather, there is only room for a life pregnant with potential and meaning.

Copyright 2014 Susan W. Bailey
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About Author

Susan Bailey is an writer, speaker and musician. She is the author of River of Grace Creative Passages Through Difficult Times, published by Ave Maria Press, and Louisa May Alcott: Illuminated by The Message, part of the Literary Portals to Prayer series published by ACTA Publications. Along with her own blogs Be As One and Louisa May Alcott is My Passion), Susan frequently contributes to CatholicMom.com and the Association of Catholic Women Bloggers. She has also contributed to Catholic.net and Catholic Online. Susan writes articles and a monthly column known as Be as One for the Diocese of Worcester newspaper, The Catholic Free Press. Bailey, who works as a marketing/advertising assistant for a local real estate firm, is an associate member of the Commission for Women of the Diocese of Worcester, Massachusetts, where previously she served as chair and secretary, helping to organize the biennial “Gather Us In” women’s conference, one of the first major Catholic women’s conferences in the country. As part of her duties she wrote the monthly column for The Catholic Free Press known as “Concerning Women” and appeared on CatholicTV’s “This is the Day” to promote the conference. A professional musician and graphic artist, Bailey released four CDs, performed on EWTN, CatholicTV and World Youth Day 2002, and worked as a cantor in her parish of St. Luke the Evangelist for fifteen years. She earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education (with concentrations in US History and Music) from Bridgewater State University. She and her husband, Rich, have two grown children and live in North Grafton, Massachusetts. Susan invites you to join her email list where you will receive updates on exciting professional developments and speaking engagements. Email subscribers also receive special giveaways and previews of new projects. Susan loves a good conversation and looks forward to corresponding with you! Join here.

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