Dear Friends,

These are momentous, stressful times we live in. It may seem that around every corner there’s something to be fearful, angry, or distraught over. Our minds may habitually return to the last article we read, or video we watched, or podcast we listened to. We may feel compelled to stay up-to-date on the latest news, out of a sense of duty, from a powerful curiosity, or a need to be on top of what’s going on so as to feel safe and prepared. And all of this takes a toll on us.

Psychologists have long studied what is called vicarious trauma or vicarious traumatization. This kind of trauma arises not from a first-hand experience of a traumatic event, but from witnessing such an event. Such vicarious trauma has often been seen in professionals who work in fields where witnessing traumatic events or interacting with trauma survivors is common. However, it’s now known that vicarious trauma can also affect those who are regularly exposed to traumatic events in the media. Constant exposure to traumatic events in media has been shown to cause anxiety, difficulties in coping, immense fear, and feelings of hopelessness. This is especially true for those of us who have a history of trauma ourselves or just happen to be particularly sensitive.

Jesus said “blessed are the peacemakers,” and as children of God that is our calling. Being a peacemaker, which is so needed is these tumultuous times, begins with being at peace ourselves. A big fan of the beatitudes himself, Gandhi once said that “there is no way to peace, peace is the way.” And Martin Luther King Jr. told us to “be the peace you wish to see in the world.” In other words, one of the very best gifts we can offer a troubled world is letting ourselves rest in God’s presence, resting in the Peace and Joy of Christ.

If you feel yourself caught up in a cycle of fear, anger, and despair, as you digest all the latest news of a world and people in crisis, you owe it to yourself and the world to be kind to yourself, and take a break. And even Jesus needed to be alone every now and then, so you know you’re in good company. In a world inundated with news 24-hours a day, here are some helpful tips on being a peacemaker, beginning with making inner peace:

  • Set limits on the consumption of news media, videos, etc. Consider taking a Sabbath from all kinds of media, for a day or even longer.
  • If you have trouble setting limits, put notes on the devices you use reminding yourself to ask “Is what I’m doing now nourishing for my soul?”
  • Practice noticing patterns in your thoughts and feelings around consuming traumatic news, and take a break when needed.
  • Make a list of things that bring you hope, peace, and joy, and practice them.
  • If you feel called to do something, then do something! Consider even the smallest gestures that could turn hopelessness and anxiety into action.
  • Make time for silent prayer, and practice letting God take on the cares of the world while you rest in God’s presence.

Remember, your greatest contribution to God’s Kingdom is to cultivate the Kingdom within. Stay informed in moderation, be kind to yourself, and be the Peace and Joy of Christ the world so needs.

Peace and Be Well,

Br. Nicholas Bartoli

11 Comments

  1. Beth Hatcher on August 8, 2020 at 12:11

    This is spot on. We need to be sharing this with our congregations, friends, and families. Thank you.

  2. Martha on July 29, 2020 at 14:23

    As so any of the Graces provided by SSJE, I find that this offering provides me with just the point of view I needed but did not know I needed. Thank you and all the Brothers for your prayers and for sharing your thoughts with me.

  3. Jan on July 15, 2020 at 17:09

    Thank you Brother, for your thoughtful comments and suggestions. It is difficult to avoid the media when, as the previous comment by Max said, “there’s some stuff we need to know.” But in my own effort to filter what comes in, I’ve considered the sources and for me that means severely limiting cable news, regardless of their political bent to the right or left. It’s been helpful and “when I slip, I get back on the path,” to paraphrase Gandhi.

    Thank you for reminding us to rest in God’s Presence and to reflect the peace we wish to see in the world.

  4. Max on July 4, 2020 at 01:15

    Such a shame there have only been 7 replies [+ mine, hopefully] to such an excellent, thoughtful, and cogent summary of the dilemma we often find ourselves in.

    The horns of the dilemma: we can’t cut out all news all the time because there’s some stuff we need to know. And some of the so-called “news” is about as valid as a $7 note!

    But Br Bartoli gives us some very helpful tools to cope better with news-anxiety and vicarious trauma.

    Thank you.

  5. Carney Ivy on June 30, 2020 at 06:52

    Thank you!!! Very much needed!

  6. Jane on June 27, 2020 at 19:54

    This is an absolutely excellent essay; many many thanks. I need to find a way to share its essence with someone who is highly sensitive and overwhelmed with life right now. With thanks.

  7. Maria K. on June 27, 2020 at 06:53

    This is the gift I needed right now.

  8. Deborah Ann on June 26, 2020 at 19:02

    Thank you for reminding us that there is more to being than doing.

  9. KATHERINE TALLMADGE on June 26, 2020 at 16:31

    Thank you! I really needed these thoughts and words

  10. Michael Drell on June 26, 2020 at 12:15

    Gracias hermano!

  11. Lindsay on June 26, 2020 at 11:55

    Thank you brothers🙏🏼

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