Recommitting our energies to the year ahead


This reflection by Bishop Nigel was first published in the Dundee Courier:

The massacre by Adam Lanza of twenty primary school children and six staff in Connecticut just before Christmas shocked us all, raising many uncomfortable questions about guns and violence, video games and family life which are relevant here in Britain also.

In the Season of Goodwill we ask, how can such things happen? Forensic psychiatry identifies resentment as the emotional driver in individuals who commit such outrageous acts of violence frequently when their unrealistic expectations remain unfulfilled. Mass killers blame the world for their grievances with the same chilling hatred as King Herod, infamous for massacring the babies of first century Bethlehem (the bit we carefully avoid in the children’s Nativity Play).

A sense of entitlement and a sense of resentment are perhaps two of the most unattractive emotions of our age. They are especially unhelpful for our young people growing up in a challenging environment of educational and political, economic, moral and lifestyle choices. In the coming months I imagine that debate about the needs of the poor and of business enterprise in a persisting recession, and that arguments about Scottish independence, gay marriage and funding higher education and social care will become even more animated.

An American, Howard Thurman, reflecting on the true meaning of the Christmas story wrote the following words: ‘When the song of the angels is stilled, when the star in the sky is gone, when the kings and princes are home, when the shepherds are back with their flocks, the work of Christmas begins - to find the lost, to heal the broken, to feed the hungry, to release the prisoner, to rebuild the nations, to bring peace among the people, to make music in the heart.’

Making music in the heart is about a determination to strive for a better world, in civil society in our personal lives and relationships. It is about thinking things through and making a real effort while not assuming it is someone else’s responsibility - which reminds me of the often told story which helps us laugh at ourselves.

Once upon a time there were four people: Everybody, Somebody, Nobody, and Anybody. Whenever there was an important job to do Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. When Nobody did it, Everybody got angry because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Somebody would do it, but Nobody realised that Nobody would do it. So consequently Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done in the first place.

Above all making music in the heart is about what we nowadays often call emotional intelligence, a more human sensibility of genuine, selfless goodwill towards other people, purposefully creating a situation in which Everybody thrives. At the year’s turning, we can take stock of our lives, resolving to recommit our hopes and energies to the opportunities which 2013 may bring. However you are spending the holiday season I wish you and those close to you every blessing for the New Year ahead.

Categories: BishopReflections