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Pointers along the way #571

The ostrich strategy
- Jacob Ninan

It is said that the ostrich will bury its head under the sand when it feels any threat, and the assumption is that it thinks denial is safety. We humans also seem to use this strategy very often! It was Sigmund Freud who brought out the concept of psychological 'defence mechanisms' which we use instantly when we hear of things that can cause us mental pain or discomfort. One such mechanism is 'denial' where we reject painful facts hoping that they are not true, or that they will go away if we ignore them! A typical example is when we hear of someone's death and react immediately by saying it can't be true because we saw him just the other day. When we think of it we can see it is totally illogical to think that just because we saw someone alive the other day he has to be alive today. But this is a defence mechanism.

Among some Christians this strategy comes in the form of "Hear no evil!" They quote the verse that tells us to dwell on good things (Php.4:8). What this verse intends to tell us is that we should not brood over negative thoughts that would take away our joy, make us fearful, gloomy, depressed, etc. This does not mean that we should never think of negative things. The reality of life includes many unpleasant situations, evil people, injustice, cruelty, etc., and we can't live if we won't look at these things, think about them and form our responses. We can't make them disappear by ignoring them or pretending they are not there. That would be a most unrealistic thing to do.

Some people say, "Time will heal," and use that as an excuse not to take any action. Some others pray and leave everything into God's hands thinking that this would absolve them of any responsibility they have to do something. Some fanatically resist even hearing or reading anything that is unpleasant to them thinking that they are keeping their minds clean. None of these strategies works. They can't work because by one way or another they are keeping us away from taking up responsibility for what they should do.

Parents don't correct their children. Husbands and wives don't discuss their problems. People who are in debt don't cut down their expenses in order to pay back. Leaders keep away from problems their people have. Organisations bother about their image more than the internal problems.

We live in a real world with real problems. When we have problems we are the ones who need to do something to deal with them. These problems have a way of becoming worse the more we ignore them! Yes, we can ask others and God also to help us. But it is ultimately not the responsibility of others or even God to sort out our problems, but ours. Others are there to share our burdens and to help us carry them. but it is our need and responsibility to deal with our own burdens (Ga.6:2-5). Unlike the ostrich, we need to look squarely at our problems and ask God and others what we can do about them. That is to face reality and to live real lives.


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