When You Feel Helpless

There seems to be a theme of terror and tragedy in the world today. Terrorism, disease, riots, poverty, pain, indifference, and catastrophe can dominate the news and it begins to feel like that’s all there is.

Evil is real. I believe that. And sometimes really bad things happen to good people.

When Bad Things Happen

What I’m most afraid of, though, is apathy. At what point do we as a nation become numb to the horrific things going on around us? At what point do we hear about another shooting, or another death, or another disaster, and just brush it off because we’ve become desensitized to it? At what point do we lose the compassion that we feel for others?

It’s scary to think that this could be the future. I don’t want apathy. We have to do something. It can feel like we’re totally helpless, but that’s not at all true. So what can we do when we feel utterly and completely helpless? Here are a few places to start:

  1. Pray. This is difficult. It can be difficult to think that God hears or cares or that our measly little prayer could even make any difference at all. “I’ll pray for you” can begin to feel like a statement of support rather than an actual commitment to prayer if we aren’t careful. I’m reading Before Amen by Max Lucado and it’s really challenging me to examine my prayer. Although prayer can seem insignificant, it should be the first response, not an afterthought.
  2. Give. When horrible things happen, it’s easy to turn inside ourselves. If you think back to the times that you felt most fulfilled and most empowered, it was likely when you were giving. You can give of your time through volunteering, of your money through donating, or of your support by reaching out to someone who’s hurting. I don’t think of the world as a scale where my giving acts can somehow compensate for something horrific. My giving act can’t bring back someone who was killed, but I can’t let that discourage me from doing what I can do. We can all make the world just a tiny bit better, and those giving acts add up to a changed world.
  3. Reflect. By making sure that you are putting good into the world instead of bad, you are taking care of your piece of the pie. Unfortunately you can’t change anyone else, but you can change yourself, so get yourself to a point where you are the best version of yourself. That may mean doing some self-care activities, seeing a counselor, learning a new skill, or caring for your family. Reflecting on your own issues and bettering yourself is your part in bettering the world.
  4. Focus. When you hear of a tragedy happening, watching the 24/7 news report with angry commentary and social media arguments isn’t doing a thing to enhance your life. Focus on what matters and stop drowning yourself in the bad news of the day. It’s good to be informed, but do you really need to watch news footage of the victim’s mom’s cousin’s neighbor bashing someone else’s views on Facebook? Humans are oddly enticed by this kind of controversy, but it’s not helping anyone and it’s only fanning the fire.

Horrible things are bound to happen in your life, and it’s easy to feel helpless and like you have no control. By praying, giving, reflecting, and focusing, you can regain that sense of control and use your compassion to fuel progress.

What helps you to cope with tragedy?

 


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