The End of Everyone
Rebutting a challenge of a particular manner of behavior, we often hear, "Everyone is doing it." Of course, everyone is not doing it. Unsettling is the lack of critical assessment, principled evaluation, or concern over consequences on the part of the individual or the group. The natural desire to conform, to belong, and to find acceptance is a linchpin of societal formation. These impulses, however, do not operate in a vacuum, but can indicate a well or a sick society depending on the values by which the society defines itself.
Liturgically, New Year's Day begins with a witness to a set of values. One young girl's faith, virtue, and unflagging desire to serve her Lord brought forth a new and wondrous revelation of God to mankind. In celebrating Mary as the Mother of God, we see in that role of being the mother of the Word made flesh a lifelong commitment to home, family, and to those original set of values. If ever the statement, "Everyone is doing it." does not apply, it is in the unique role and the depth of holiness alive in Mary of Nazareth. Her model of faith throughout all of the generations who call her blessed is meant to be a living presence in all who believe and hope in her Son. The mission of the Church is to bring to everyone on this planet an invitation to find in Christ the Way, the Truth, and the Life and, it is hoped, to create a global community where, yes, everyone may be doing it – loving God, neighbor and self.
From the profound to the prosaic, Times Square in New York City is the Mecca for revelers who want to rejoice in the arrival of the New Year by watching the great crystal ball descend from the roof of One Times Square ushering in that magic moment when the numbers of the newly reached year light up amidst a profusion of cheers, noisemakers, and fireworks. Generally, it is assumed that the motivation behind the celebratory atmosphere is to capture a renewed feeling of hope. Perhaps, the year ahead will be better than the one that has past. The definition of "better" is left up to the individual to determine. Perhaps, improvement in one's personal relationships or financial situation or the fruition of some goal or dream constitutes the meaning of things getting better. Nevertheless, hope is a good thing and, if the content of that hope is also good in the view of God, it is the best thing.
This idea of renewed hope lends itself to the realization of how personal decisions and actions impact not only the person but everyone (society). The hopes and wishes of New Year's Eve presume a serious and penetrating analysis of one's life to this point. A person evolves from revelation to resolution. Again, one come to the presence of values – what they are and how strongly held. Reflecting on one's values and how they operate in one's life is an interesting approach to the celebration of New Year's Eve. A person's moral system creates the responsible businessman or the crook, the sincere person or the gigolo, the true friend or the manipulative opportunist. The fulfillment of one's hopes either adds or subtracts to the overall wellness of society according to the undergirding principles shaping those hopes. This issue is too important, too decisive merely to flow with tide of current culture. God's expectations that we seek the good, know the good, and affirm the good must supersede whatever "everyone else is doing." The human being has been given by God too much freedom, power, and creative ability not weigh carefully the times within which he lives.
You cannot believe in honor until you have achieved it. Better keep yourself clean and bright; you are the window through which you must see the world.
George Bernard Shaw
Considering that defensive retort, "Everyone is doing it." If we are thoughtful, I think that we realize that the person is uttering an excuse for effective change. The reason may not be that the individual is saying that you "have to go along to get along," but that the person is not willing to challenge his own thoughts or that of society to do what is right. Pressure often evokes fear and as with any painful thing, one seeks a cure. Is it a cure to reluctantly march in lockstep to the tune of the collective mores of an unrighteous "everyone?" For many, the answer is yes. Among the hopeful on the dawning of this year, let there be those who are willing to slay the "everyone" of their thinking and acting for a new appreciation of their God-given capacity for truly making a better self as a gift to making a better society.