Of all the psychology therapies the one that has most often made sense to me is “behavioral therapy”. What appeals to me about behavior therapy or counseling is the belief that “we often live, or act, our way into new ways of thinking”. So, if I am turned inward in my thoughts to the point of overwhelming anxiety or depression; taking the action of doing something for someone else (a different behavior) has potential to change my mindset. I begin thinking more about others than my own situation.
Currently our world finds itself in a massive behavior change situation. To thwart the spread of the COVID-19 virus we have been asked to change our behavior: stay home, work from home, move worship and education online, wash your hands, don’t touch your face, practice social distancing, etc.
I have noticed that while some people are ignoring this advice, and others are criticizing it as an over-reaction; thankfully, most seem to be trying to adopt these forms of behavior change. Granted, it comes much easier for an introvert, like me, to practice social distancing than it is for my extrovert wife or mother-in-law; but these prescribed behavior changes are challenging all of us in some way.
Perhaps it would help if we looked on them less as restrictions and more as gifts. By practicing social distancing – moving (while waving) to the other side of the street when I pass a neighbor on a walk; staying a safe distance from those who are helping me lead live stream worship – I’m not only doing something to protect my own health, I’m honoring my neighbor and working collaboratively with them to protect the health of others.
If we put the focus more on the good of the group, or the love of the other; rather than on our personal inconveniences or sacrifices; we may, as a people, begin to act our way into some new ways of thinking. Could the gift of this time of communal behavior change lead us from the polarized places of our politics to working together for a common good – the health and wellness of all? If we are on a “war footing”, as has been said, then doesn’t such a time call for sacrifice? Rationing? Sharing? Looking out for the other?
Already, as the human spirit has adapted to this change in life, we’ve begun to see some creative and imaginative examples of care taking, servant leadership, and building community. I predict, if we allow it, that this time of behavior change can lead us into more expressions of love for neighbor. Wouldn’t it be interesting if, as we change behavior in hopes of flattening the curve of this pandemic, that another curve of kindness and care for the common good begins to emerge?
I pray that it may be so.