These Days, You Might as Well Call Me Dr. Crankypants. But Thankfully I Found the Antidote
I confessed to my pastor the sin of crankiness — crankiness towards my wife, grandkids, students, friends, the pope, our bishops, the media, all politicians, and God as well.
He thought for a minute and then said, “Well, there’s plenty to be cranky about these days.”
That doesn’t make it less of a sin, but yes, there is.
It’s increasingly clear that the COVID-19 received enhanced potency in a lab in Wuhan using U.S. funding. It got loose, devastating the frail, the poor, and the elderly while creating panic that even vaccines can’t calm. Since the isolation, lock-downs, and school closures, U.S. school children are falling behind academically while youth mental health issues and suicides have risen dramatically.
Meanwhile some Catholic bishops seem bent on schism as they run after the sexual revolution yelling, “Us too!” The liberal theology behind this, far beyond its sell-by date, always releases deadly viruses and toxins into the Church until — witness the Protestant mainline — it kills its host. We weep as St. Dominic wept in prayer, “Merciful God, what will become of sinners?”
At home, in part because of “conservative” opinion leaders and activists (who, since the election have watched their enormous popularity with CNN, The New York Times, and The Atlantic evaporate), we have a spendthrift administration and Congress pushing a social agenda that is anti-life, anti-family, anti-religious liberty, and anti-liberty. Did anyone really think it would be otherwise?
And the list can go on. There’s plenty to be cranky about.
Yet, as I said, crankiness is a sin. It is the polar opposite of love, joy, peace, patience, and the rest of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). It needs to be confessed and confronted with a Gospel remedy.
What Makes us Cranky
In his little book Searching for and Maintaining Peace, Fr. Jacques Philippe insists, “The reasons why we lose our peace [and become cranky] are always bad reasons.”
Fr. Philippe cites the fear of lacking what we need, our difficulty in believing in divine providence, and our fear of suffering.
With regard to the fear of being without, he points to our penchant for providing for ourselves: “One could even say that the surest way to lose one’s peace is precisely to try to assure one’s own life solely with the aid of human industry, with personal projects and decisions or by relying on someone else.”
This, of course, connects with our difficulty believing in providence. “We cannot experience this support from God unless we leave Him the necessary space in which He can express Himself.” We close that space by plotting our own course to meet our needs. If God is there at all, He is a benevolent though not always agreeable helper.
Finally we fear suffering. In the immortal words of Daffy Duck, “I’m not like other people. I can’t stand pain. Pain hurts me.” Yet suffering is inevitable. Evil may be a mystery, but there is no mystery about the fact that evil and suffering are part of this life.
These three feed compulsions, create anxiety, and rob us of peace. They make us cranky.
“Peace I Leave With You”
In contrast, Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27).
Fr. Philippe writes, “When the Lord affirms that He gives us peace, that He gives us His peace, these words are divine words, words which have the same creative force as the words that brought the sky and the earth from the void, they carry the same weight as the words that quieted the storm, the words that healed the sick and brought the dead back to life.”
Our lack of peace and general crankiness come from not believing Jesus’ words. Unbelief leads to a frenzy of fending for ourselves. Abandoning everything to God and patiently waiting for Him to act becomes unthinkable.
Yet Scripture is full of assurances wonderfully summed up in this verse to persecuted Christians: “Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you” (1 Peter 5:7). Relax, be at peace. The Almighty has all of this covered.
That does not mean we stop doing what we can to provide for our needs and the needs of others. We still go to work and work hard. We still save and manage our finances with prudence. We still stay informed, vote, act in the public square, and file religious liberty lawsuits. We still repent of our sins and strive for holiness. But the Gospel gives us no excuse for doing those things with anxiety, anger and crankiness.
If the Gospel is true, our sins are forgiven, we’re adopted children of the Father, Jesus will return to right every wrong and dry every tear, resurrection is the final word and not death, we have an eternal home with God and so, let’s be honest, we don’t have any excuse for anxiety, anger, and crankiness. We can have peace in the midst of the worst this world has to offer.
And, of course, the Gospel is true.
Dr. James Tonkowich, a senior contributor to The Stream, is a freelance writer, speaker and commentator on spirituality, religion and public life. He is the author of The Liberty Threat: The Attack on Religious Freedom in America Today and Pears, Grapes, and Dates: A Good Life After Mid-Life. Jim serves as Director of Distance Learning at Wyoming Catholic College and is host of the college’s weekly podcast, “The After Dinner Scholar.”