The last few days, in which our Internet, phone, and television transmission kept crashing, have been a much-needed reminder that I am not in control of the universe . . . not that I seriously ever thought I was. However, humans do seem to have this urge to live with the illusion of control. Wasn't that what Adam and Eve's sin was all about, the desire to be like God and decide everything for themselves?
I can't control AT&T. That's such an absurd statement that it makes me want to dissolve in giggles. Of course, I can't control such a corporate giant.
Yet, neither do I need to roll over and play dead for them.
The writing project I'm working on currently is in the subject area of psychology. And one of the concepts I had to write about this week is the idea of learned helplessness. If a person is in an uncomfortable situation, yet he or she finds that all efforts to escape or alleviate the situation accomplish nothing, that person will absorb the idea that he or she is powerless. He or she eventually stops trying.
I think that attitude is summed up in the expression You can't fight city hall . . . or corporate America, for that matter.
My challenge the last few days has been to find the right balance. I don't want to succumb to learned helplessness, yet I have to remember that there is only so much I can do to resolve the situation. I can choose to pursue the issue and request repairs again and again, but is it really helpful to scream over the phone at the AT&T customer service reps? Generally, I think not. However, I did tell them again and again what these problems were costing me in terms of hampering my business.
The thing that keeps me from going ballistic when problems like these happen is reminding myself that nobody is doing this deliberately. AT&T is not maliciously trying to alienate me as a customer. So I spent hours on the phone, giving them every last piece of information I could think of in the off chance that I might provide the one clue that could help them track down the problem.
In the end, the service issues had nothing to do with any of my theories. But I'm glad that I participated as much as I was able.
In a lot of ways, that's how I feel about the upcoming election. I can't control the outcome in November, but I do vote and email my elected representatives, and we sent money to the candidate of our choice even though we're still on a tight budget. I'm even debating whether I should do more and perhaps volunteer to help a campaign. I'm still waiting for some inner guidance on that one.
With the economic problems and the negative political climate and the stream of disasters our nation has recently endured, I think a lot of people are feeling overwhelmed and unable to do anything to counteract what's happening.
If any of you are in that place, I urge you not to give in to learned helplessness. Take one action today. Just one. Email a government official, sign an online petition about a cause you care about, find a way to cut your budget, send money to a relief agency helping the hurricane victims, donate to a food pantry, or update your resume so you can search for a better job. You will feel much better about yourself, and you'll have done something to make a difference.
On the other hand, if any of you are exhausted from trying to control the outcomes, remember that you're not in this alone. You don't have to do everything all by yourself. Do what you can and trust God for the outcome.
Ok, I'm done preaching now. Have a wonderful Wednesday.