Mountains or Molehills?
The teacher was alarmed. His student seemed to be in panic mode, and the teacher had no idea what was behind the frightened display of emotion. The teacher sat the student down and said, “I don't know what is happening right now, but I want you to think about this. Whatever is happening that is causing you to be so upset, ask yourself if it is a mountain or a molehill.”
The student looked at the teacher with a blank look, and said, “What's a molehill?” The teacher patiently replied, “A molehill is some event in our lives that we can step over or around and it will somehow be solved. A mountain is an event in our lives that is such a huge obstacle that our lives come to a stop and do not continue until we are able to conquer it, usually with help from others.” Later that day, the student approached the teacher and whispered in his ear, “It was a molehill.....”
Everyone has faced situations in life when we are confused, angry, determined, anxious, fearful, or just plain frustrated. At some point we have to decide if the situation at hand is a mountain or a molehill. More often than not, what at the time seems to be a mountain is later judged to have been a molehill after all. But in the heat of the moment, we are easily consumed by the perceived magnitude of the situation and imagine that we are facing a mountain.
Dr. Jennifer Kunst, in a 2013 article in Psychology Today, wrote, “How does a molehill become a mountain? Physically speaking, a molehill becomes a mountain when an animal takes dirt from somewhere and piles it on somewhere else. Psychologically speaking, making a mountain out of a molehill essentially is a massive displacement of psychological dirt from one place to another. We unconsciously dig up dirty issues from one significant area of our lives and pile them on to something far more innocuous.”
This issue comes to light as we begin to face, as a nation, what can be labeled “COVID fatigue.” Restaurants are still not open to capacity, every store we visit requires that patrons wear a mask over their face, and it seems as though everyone is asking, “Why can’t things get back to normal?”
In this environment, tempers tend to flare more easily and there is a definitive polarization—and politicization—of how seriously to address the ongoing coronavirus. Chance encounters between folks wearing masks and those going without masks in public settings turn into unnecessarily dangerous conflicts, sometimes ending in physical abuse or worse.
Nick Lowry, an NFL Hall of Fame kicker, was interviewed the day after the first NFL game of this season. Prior to this game, the Kansas City Chiefs players stood during the national anthem, and then players from both teams locked arms stretching the entire field. Lowry stated, “(The year) 2020 is different because we have been cooped inside for all these months, so the level of emotion, isolation, and frustration is at an all-time high. People want to do something with this energy. People are so hypersensitive that anything that can insult people is sometimes brought to bear. We have to use that sensitivity to do something [for good].”
“Unfriending” on Facebook has become the latest solution to solve the lack of civility and productive conversation between family members, friends, and acquaintances. The vitriol of comments posted on Facebook can take one’s breath away. At some point, we must all determine whether this forum presents us with a mountain or a molehill. Do we cast aside decades-long friendships because of differing political outlooks?
One other dilemma facing us is whether or not to attend services of worship in this time of COVID. The spectrum of answers to this says a lot about what a person believes about the coronavirus itself. Those who favor full attendance at services of worship with no restrictions are likely to downplay the severity and reality of the pandemic. Many proclaim their faith in terms of trusting God to protect them from the virus. Many demand “no mask” services because, as one person stated, “We are created in the image of God, and it is a sin to cover that image with a mask.”
Mountains or molehills? As you can see, some issues are more important than others. That is what creates a mountain out of a molehill. Perhaps we will land somewhere in the middle. If this nation, and this community, can come to common ground, we will land in peace and understanding somewhere in between the mountain and the molehill.