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The Spiritual Cost of the Ongoing Pandemic

Updated: Oct 19, 2020

We all know about the economic consequences of the time we’re in right now. But what of the unseen spiritual costs?

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I was with a friend recently who found herself on the verge of tears, as an extended family member had dropped by, at the one time she had the house to herself. That might be a common occurrence for a young mom whose spouse had taken the kids out of the house to a park, but that’s not the case with this friend. She just found herself silently crying, wait, no, help! I needed this time!

We all know about the economic consequences of the time we’re in right now. You can quantify it. Millions filing for unemployment. Businesses and companies struggling or closing their doors.

But what of the costs we can’t quantify on the evening news? Let's start with the emotional costs. Are you more tired at the end of the day because of all the bad news your seeing or experiencing? If you’re working from home and spending a ton of time on video conferencing and working on a computer, and trying to accomplish with email what you used to do in a meeting, then you’re easily feeling extra exhausted by the end of the day.

If you’ve lost a job, there might also be a loss of identity and certain relationships, leaving you struggling to redefine who you are (I've been there). Perhaps with a job loss there’s also a loss of health insurance that brings a cost to physical health.

Consider also all the relationships one might experience during daily life. Those real, in person, sometimes human touch relationships, from handshakes to hugs, just aren’t there like they used to be.

Another friend was recently talking about how we’re all possibly breathing more shallowly with our face masks when out in public. Shallow breathing, she contended, unknowingly adds to our anxiety level. Perhaps it’s even harder to hear each other, or to read a facial expression. Can you see a smile when someone is wearing a mask?

The point is this: you can’t always tell just how hard something is while you’re in the midst of it. We survive, we take it one day at a time, but a price of some kind is being paid. Put another way, this pandemic time is making an impression on you that will be there long after it’s over, as if this all wasn't sobering enough.

So back to the original question: what are the unseen spiritual costs?

Many of those who go to a church already know that they are missing the social bonds that a faith community provides. Those kinds of relationships are about coming together around sacred symbols. As routine as it might be, sharing the communion table is a bigger miss than we might think. Even the idea of people physically worshipping together can be a sacred symbol, not to mention singing together, or sharing prayers in each other’s physical presence. It’s also noted that Bible reading is down, credited mostly to the lack of church attendance. I’ve also heard it said anecdotally that pastors are really getting worn out.

Outside of church, there’s undoubtedly a spiritual cost we’re paying as well. For the sake of discussion, let’s define spirituality as something more than mental health. Spirituality is instead the way we interact with powerful symbols and ways of thinking that encompass so much more than a therapeutic program or a rational proposition. Spirituality is difficult to describe, as it can be something captured by a play, a poem, a movie, or a song. Not always, but these things often point to something sacred. And we’re certainly missing a lot of these things right now, and especially not enjoying them live and in person with others.

Here’s the point in this article where you might expect a fix-it list of things you can do. Maybe that’s a good idea, but for now I think it’s worth meditating, even perhaps lamenting, on how much we’re missing something vital in our lives. I just want to help us recognize it, as I bet many of you already know what to do.

I might just say this: one commonsense approach would simply be to give yourself some slack. Granted, the last thing you need to do is to add religious guilt to the fact you’re doing less religion. Even still, giving yourself slack is easier said than done. In fact, it’s quite likely you're dealing with religious guilt more than ever (speaking of unseen costs), except for the fact that many other people are also not attending church. But if you’re like me, I’m trained to think that no matter what anyone else in the world is doing, I should be in church.

Perhaps sometimes a time of suffering means you simply must suffer, but also lament, cry like my friend did, and honestly express to others what you’re feeling. No doubt they are feeling it too. Feel and express the pain and see what happens. It will help.


David Morris PhD.jpg
David R. Morris

I work to glean helpful information to bring you new ways to move forward spiritually. I'm an independent scholar, writer, and longtime religious publishing professional. My goal is to help us all rewire our American religious imagination. That's something to lean into.

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