Awareness Fatigue and the “Master Awareness”

I like to think that I’m pretty up to speed on the events and issues of the day, especially on healthcare matters, but maybe not. Apparently people want me to be a lot more “aware” of things.  You know what I’m talking about. Formal and informal “awareness” campaigns are everywhere. Some involve ice buckets and social media messaging. Other campaigns sponsor walks, runs, ribbons, and special days, weeks or months.

Health and medical issues that come to mind as I write are:

Heart disease
Heart disease in women
Breast cancer
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
Epilepsy
Childhood Leukemia
Alzheimer’s disease
Incontinence
Lung disease
Lung cancer
Lung cancer in nonsmokers

And let’s not forget the social issues too:

Racism
Domestic violence
Income inequality
Illegal immigration
Deforestation
Distracted driving
Terrorism
Radicalization of domestic youth
Long-term unemployment
Poverty
Food insecurity
Bullying
Food deserts
Militarization of police
Domestic surveillance by the NSA

You can probably think of more, perhaps a lot more, from your own experience.

The campaign sponsors want to achieve more than just awareness of course. Really, they want to do something about the problem or issue of concern, and they want you to do something too – make a financial donation or take some other action. They care about the issue and want to make a difference.

I care too, but I’m having awareness fatigue.  Awareness of everything is overwhelming.  How can I have the energy to care about anything if I have to care about everything?  What’s the best way to think about all of the problems in the world today?  How do I make sense out of the suffering, and choose my response? Is one life threatening illness more important than another? Should I walk in every walk and blog on every issue of human suffering or injustice?

In thinking through these questions, I’ve identified parallels in other areas. My job in healthcare administration also involves many problems demanding responses.   When facing multiple issues at work, I typically ask my team to see if and how things might be connected. Are there any general theories or concepts that explain the multiple events or issues facing us? Can a more general understanding shape our actions? Perhaps we can kill two birds with one stone.

I’ve found this “systems thinking” approach to be very helpful. In my experience many business issues can be addressed most effectively by a small number of upstream changes.  And I think most practicing physicians would agree that many common individual illnesses (diabetes, hypertension, vascular disease, obesity) can often be helped by the same set of lifestyle changes.

However, all our business problems do not have a single common answer. After we’ve identified any major upstream solutions, some of our issues still require individual action plans. Then prioritization becomes important. Which issues are the most critical? Which issues are we most able to solve? Where is the best use of our time and resources? How do we maximize our productivity?

Applying this to the awareness issues above, I see the sinful/fallen state of creation as the common underlying factor.  Illness, poverty, and violence have been with us since Cain killed Abel, and unfortunately, we’re not going to be able to solve them. It’s simply not possible for us to correct or eliminate the manifestations of sin in the world.  This is the “master awareness” that we should keep in mind as we do respond to our troubles.

If sin is the fundamental problem, the only true solutions can come from heaven. God loves all of creation and all people, and Jesus has paid the price to rescue us from sin. Yes there is evil, sin and brokenness in the world for the time being, but Jesus is in charge. So my general response is to pray. I pray for the whole world; for God to be at work everywhere remedying every kind of evil, injustice and suffering; for the advancement of his kingdom. Is anything too big for God? Why not ask big.

Now I must decide how to respond to the individual issues. Where do I have interest, passion and expertise? Given my individual circumstances, where am best able to help? And what would God have me do? The answer I have for now is “Health Discipleship.” So I choose to devote my energy to promoting and helping others achieve physical, emotional and spiritual health through lifestyle changes and discipleship.

I can appreciate and support those who are devoting their energy to finding a cure for breast cancer, ALS, or other conditions as they have worked through these questions for themselves. Perhaps I will participate in some of their awareness events (but I am not doing the ice bucket thing); however, I’m reserving most of my energy for Health Discipleship. And, like the other awareness campaign sponsors, I want you to do something about your health, lifestyle and discipleship.

Since you’ve read this far, please consider yourself part of the Health Discipleship Awareness Campaign. The good news is that no donations, ribbons or ice buckets are necessary, and the only walking is following Jesus! Thank you for your support.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”    Matthew 28:18-20   NIV

Comments

  1. Hi Pete,

    Therein lies the issue. So much to do, so little time. So much to do, such limited resources. Thank God the responsibilities of the world are not laid on our individual shoulders. Fortunately, God has broad shoulders which can bear all the burdens. Matthew 1:29 “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.” Isn’t it best that we pray as you said and ask God to go into action and raise up the workers and resources to meet every need. He is “able to do exceeding abundantly, beyond all we ask or think.” Ephesians 3:20. Thanks for all you do.

    Ray Traylor

    • Peter Weiss says:

      Thanks Ray. It seems we are like minded on this issue, and we can trust that God hears our prayers and is working in ways seen and unseen.