Are you healthy? I sure hope so. It can be a challenge these days not to be sick with COVID, heartsick, or sick to your stomach! Yay for me, I don’t have any of those right now. But in the process of reflecting, I’ve discovered another ailment that’s bringing me down, even though it feels like it’s doing the opposite.
I suffer from “Everybody Is Stupid But Me” syndrome. Have you seen this? In others, of course? It’s the deep, abiding sense that the way you see the world is how the world is, and therefore, anyone who doesn’t see it as you see it is stupid.
Now in some quarters, the word “stupid” has fallen out of favor. I tend to agree. Telling someone they’re stupid usually doesn’t help them become any less stupid. I suppose everyone else but me could be dumb, misguided, out of touch, hoodwinked, gullible, or any number of other descriptors. “Stupid” does however seem to capture the feeling that emanates from my dark heart.
And I’m not happy about it. Well, I am happy with the irony that writing about this malady, pointing it out to my reading friends, is the surest sign that I’ve got it bad! But I wish I didn’t. And I wish it weren’t so prevalent around me.
This idea began to coalesce when one of my kiddos got in the habit of loudly and plaintively declaring, “That doesn’t make sense!” when she didn’t understand something. I encouraged her to trade up for “I don’t understand,” a statement far more humble and a good bit less accusing.
And I gave her permission to point out to me when I say things that could easily be replaced with the words, “Everyone is stupid but me.” I give you that permission as well.
Mission-y types like us can fall prey to this when we advocate for our God-given passions by implying (or outright saying!) everything else is “not smart.” I experienced this in a presentation on reaching out to international students some time ago and it left a bad taste in my mouth. I’m afraid I’ve also done it before and am trying hard to avoid it as I mobilize heartily toward the 400+ unengaged Muslim peoples. (Again, please call me on it when you see it! Thank you.)
You’ve heard of FOMO, fear of missing out, and maybe have discerned it in your own life. FOMOOMO (“foh moo moh”) is a subset of that: fear of missing out on ministry opportunities! I’m guessing this is rarer than FOMO and Everyone Is Stupid But Me, but I’ll tell you what, sometimes I feel such an acute case of this that I’m almost paralyzed.
It has manifested most recently with the arrival of tens of thousands of Afghans in the US. Here are some of the thoughts that have skittered through my mind:
A friend is working in an army base helping Afghans prepare for life in the US. Intermittently, he’s dropping quotes on them in their heart language because he has a PhD in Pashto poetry! Why didn’t I ever learn Dari?! (For the record, I can almost say “yummy” in Dari and a hello/goodbye word that sounds a little like “coo duh hah fez.”)
How many Christians and how many churches are adding Afghan refugees to their list of malaise-inducing issues these days? I bet we could help some of them do something cool!
How should I be leveraging this situation to help people in my church grow in our love for people different from ourselves?
Have too many of us already stepped forward to eagerly offer more help than is needed? Mike Urton, a new friend, told me 900 churches have offered to help with the 100 Afghans expected to arrive in his area. Am I too late, or worse, unneeded?
If I let FOMOOMO rage, at some point I just bail, find a comfy chair, and continue reading my current Joe Pickett novel.
Assuming that’s not a good all-around answer, here’s some of what I’m telling myself. If any of these shoes fit, feel free to wear them with me:
God knows the plans he has for me and has indeed prepared good deeds in advance for me to walk in.
When others succeed in kingdom work, that’s a good thing. It does not make me any smaller. I can hardly believe I need to tell myself this, but there you are.
God’s got it in hand. He’s happy, but not obligated, to use me.
Read Wendell Berry, who says, “Plant sequoias. Say that your main crop is the forest that you did not plant, that you will not live to harvest.” Stay the course God has you on.
Admit your FOMOOMO to people who know you, who can tell you you’re full of yourself and still love you. Listen to what they say.
Experiment. Give it a shot. Iterate. None of us know all the answers.
This article originally appeared as a blog by Shane Bennett on October 21, 2021 on the Missions Catalyst. Photo by Missions Catalyst.