In the dark days of December with the pandemic raging, we hoped for the availability of vaccinations. Vaccinations were announced, the infections seem to be retreating, we began to make plans for travel after the long discontent for our masks, restrictions, and the new normal which we hoped would not become normal at all. And then vaccinations slowed, masks were dropped, the Delta variant spread, fights broke out on airlines, governors levied fines against businesses requiring vaccines even as they claimed federal overreach, and the late summer saw an epic rise among the unvaccinated. A night show host, joking one hopes, suggested that unvaccinated people at the hospital should be a lower triage level than vaccinated people. Schools restarted, closed, went virtual, were protested for requiring and not requiring masks. Nobody likes wearing a mask. Why isn’t everyone vaccinated? What happened to personal liberty? Isn’t this supposed to be over.
But whatever your take on all of this, we are tired – we have pandemic fatigue.
Trish Harrison Warren, writing in her Sunday column, “Isn’t this supposed to be over?” offers that “Some of this feeling is compassion fatigue, but some of it is plain old fatigue. In C.S. Lewis’s classic book ‘The Screwtape Letters,’ a demon named Screwtape is coaching his nephew on how to effectively tempt and damn his ‘patient,’ an Englishman. ‘To produce the best results from the patient’s fatigue,’ Screwtape writes, ‘you must feed him with false hopes.’”
“He encourages his nephew to assure the ‘patient’ that his hardship is nearing an end: ‘Exaggerate the weariness by making him think it will soon be over.’ He diabolically instructs him to ‘let his inner resolution be not to bear whatever comes to him, but to bear it ‘for a reasonable period’ — and let the reasonable period be shorter than the trial is likely to last.’”
I think Screwtape was on to something.
Here’s Lewis’s point: Fatigue can produce either impatience and anger or gentleness and kindness. But add disappointment to our fatigue — that sense that we cannot go on any longer and we thought we wouldn’t have to — and we become the worst versions of ourselves.
Or you can take a breath and chose to “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful.” (Col 3:12-15)
Screwtape or St. Paul – your choice.