/ Mark Loughridge

Catastrophizing the Trivial

Someone made a wrong announcement, or at least handed a wrong envelope to a man making an announcement. Nobody died, nobody was injured, but cue more drama than the dramas themselves. When Warren Beatty realised there was something wrong with the name on the card for Best Motion Picture at the Oscars, and showed it to Faye Dunaway his co-presenter, he probably didn’t expect her to blurt it out, much less have a whole troop of the wrong people on stage, and the thing rehashed endlessly through the media the next day.

Mistakes happen—but did ever you see such a kerfuffle about such a non-event? Not by the actors/producers etc—they displayed great grace, but every time I turned on the radio on Monday someone was talking about it.

Now I read on the front page of the Irish Times website the headline: “Oscar blunder worse for PwC than any audit scandal.” Accountancy firm PwC (Price Waterhouse Coopers) has been handling the winning Academy Award envelopes for the past 83 years—and this was their first slip up. So what! Apparently it will prompt “high-profile companies and organisations to reconsider longstanding audit mandates” i.e. to move away from PwC. Really?

I couldn’t care one whit for the whole thing, but it is a perfect example of a common problem. It is the catastrophizing of the trivial. We seem to have developed an inability to cope without drama. Everything has to either be a triumph or a catastrophe so that we can garner the praise, sympathy or attention we crave.

Nothing is ordinary anymore. The ordinary successes have to be photographed and trumpeted around the virtual world. The ordinary rough edge of life in an imperfect world is hyped up into the ruination of a day or a week. We are all victims now. In catastrophizing the trivial we hamstring ourselves in coping with the serious.

It’s not that we’ve suddenly become drama queens; I think it happens for at least three reasons. We have been taught that we are the centre of our world—that life is all about me. So if anything crosses our happiness we blow it out of all proportion.

We have been conned into thinking that this life is our only chance at happiness, and if we don’t get it now, then we are ruined forever.

And thirdly we have removed God from the picture—so we have no true sense of scale, and no possibility of hope when things go wrong (genuinely or otherwise). The only scale we are left with is our own life; our only hope is the present.

But what if we reintroduce God into the picture. Life becomes about knowing him—not about me and my happiness. That keeps things in proportion. Problems, rather than ruining life, are opportunities to know him better and see his power at work. And for those who know him, the best is yet to come. And knowing him gives perspective and potential in the trivialities and the catastrophes of life.

_Addendum _- For those of us who have put God back in the picture, we need to not get sucked into the mindset of catastrophzing life. Christians too can make a drama of of things that are fairly ordinary—thus belying our trust in God and giving the impression that there is no benefit in our relationship with him. We have a good shepherd, we should live like that is the case. For even our catastrophes aren't catastrophic—our good Shepherd knows where he leads us. And when he leads us in dark pathways, we need to take our gaze off the darkness and fix it on the shepherd.

We do live in an incredible drama, but the drama isn't about us—it is about him. He is working all things for the good of his people. He is spreading a table in the presence of all that goes wrong, providing all that we need. He is bringing us safely home.


Mark Loughridge

Mark Loughridge

Mark pastors 2 churches in the Republic of Ireland. He is married with three daughters. Before entering the ministry he studied architecture. He enjoys open water swimming, design, and watching rugby.

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