When Did We Lose Our Common Sense? Proverbs 16:22
By: David L. Goetsch and Sean Aland I have a guest co-author for this blog, Sean Aland. Sean is a long-time friend, co-author, college professor, and retired Air Force officer. The idea for this blog came from a conversation Sean and I recently had in which he said, “I remember when common sense was common.” His point was that so often these days it seems that people have no common sense and that the lack of it leads to rudeness, insensitivity, and even stupidity. Much of the coarseness we see in the culture these days could be eliminated by the application of a little old-fashioned common sense.
The Bible has much to say about common sense. For example, Proverbs 16:22 states: “Good sense is a fountain of life to him who has it, but the instruction of fools is folly.” We are certainly seeing a lot of foolishness and folly in contemporary culture. This being the case, let us begin by defining what we mean by common sense. Common sense is sound judgment in practical matters learned from experience rather than formal study. From the Christian’s perspective, common sense can be viewed as wisdom. Wisdom can, in turn, be viewed as thinking, speaking, and acting in ways that are pleasing to God. Much of the language and behavior we see in today’s society would fail this simple definitional test.
Until the COVID-19 pandemic, we never realized how smart our mothers really were. We grew up being told to wash our hands and cover our mouths when we cough. In fact, we were told to do these things so many times they became routine. After all, aren’t washing your hands and covering your mouth just common sense? Apparently not. Now we have to be told by government officials to do what our mothers used to teach us to do. This is part of the problem. We have become so accustomed to being told what to do by the government that we are losing our common sense. Let’s look at some examples of where common sense seems to be missing in action.
Common sense suggests that just because you have the freedom to say or do something doesn’t mean you should. The Internet has given voice to millions of people all over the world. It allows people to say anything they want and to do so anonymously. The anonymity of the Internet has introduced the concept of flaming wherein people use language that is vulgar, disrespectful, misogynistic, and rude without a second thought. Because they are anonymous, Internet flamers say things on-line they would never say in a face-to-face conversation. Flamers have a First-Amendment right to behave stupidly, but that doesn’t mean they should.
Common sense suggests that since we are all in the COVID-19 pandemic together, people would pull together to help others cope and contribute to finding solutions. Instead we have politicians and media mavens who have turned the pandemic into a political issue that is setting Republicans and Democrats, minorities and whites, rich and poor, and employees and employers against each other. The result of this political weaponizing of the pandemic is to encourage panic, increase fear, and generate resentment when what is needed is cooperation in the pursuit of solutions. It’s as if some politicians don’t mind seeing people die as long as they are able to advance their self-serving agendas.
Common sense suggests you shouldn’t spend more than you are able to pay back. Not only do many Americans ignore this common-sense principle, but now we have socialist politicians advocating for “free” healthcare, “free” college tuition, student debt forgiveness, and the Green New Deal. Together these programs would add at least $40 trillion dollars to our national debt, a debt that already exceeds America’s Gross National Product (GDP). The addition of $40 trillion more in debt would increase America’s national debt to three times the GDP. This is the equivalent of an individual who earns $100,000 per year running up a credit card debt of $300,000.
Common sense suggests that people who demand tolerance from you and me would, themselves, be tolerant, but too often they aren’t. These days being tolerant is often a one-way street in which liberals demand adherence to their opinions, ideas, and policies while demonstrating blatant intolerance toward anyone who refuses to buy into the “progressive” narrative. Their intolerance is especially troubling because the “progressive” narrative is increasingly anti-Christian, anti-conservative, and anti-American.
Common sense suggests that in choosing the elected officials we want to represent us, the most important factors would be competence, experience, ideas, and policies. It is just common sense to want the best person for the job in all elections. Unfortunately, competence, experience, ideas, and policies now take a back seat to race, gender, likeability, and personality. For example, many Americans are more interested in electing the first female president than in electing a good president. Common sense says we should elect a woman president because the female nominee is the best candidate to serve America’s long-term best interests, not because of her sex.
Common sense suggests that since COVID-19 was brought into the United States from outside we would want to carefully control immigration at our borders. In spite of the deaths from the Corona Virus, certain “progressive” politicians still insist on open borders. In the same breath, these open-border advocates criticize the current administration for “allowing” the Corona Virus to spread throughout our country.
As a nation of legal immigrants, America is one of the most diverse countries in the world. This being the case, common sense suggests we would be committed to our national motto: E Pluribus Unum (out of many, one). The only way for people from diverse backgrounds to live together in harmony is to focus on what they have in common, not the ways in which they are different. Unfortunately, this is not happening in America these days. Scheming politicians and the mainstream media do everything they can to encourage distrust and resentment among Americans of different backgrounds. They play the game of identity politics by setting groups against each other, and they do it to advance an agenda that is bad for all Americans. The result is a growing tendency toward tribalism among Americans in which we have too much pluribus and not enough unum.
Common sense suggests that people who seek public office in America would put our nation’s long-term best interests ahead of their short-term personal goals. Unfortunately, this rarely happens these days. Instead, too often we have people running for Congress and the presidency who would sell their souls and America’s future to win an election. Too many politicians refuse to look beyond the next election and will do anything, no matter how destructive to our country, to win it.
Common sense suggests you shouldn’t smoke or drink alcohol excessively, yet thousands of people do. Common sense suggests you should be cautious about personal information you post on social media, yet many people aren’t. Common sense suggests you should never post personal information about another person on social media without their permission. Common sense suggests that if you gamble or play the lottery you will probably lose, yet people still waste hard-earned money doing both.
We will close with a few other examples of how people fail to apply common sense in their daily lives. These are smaller examples but their cumulative effect is anything but small. As common sense becomes less common in America, rudeness, insensitivity, and disrespectful behavior become more common.
Drivers changing lanes or turning without using turn signals.
Listening to load music in public without using headphones.
Talking loudly on cell phones in public.
Texting while driving.
Failing to clean up after your dog.
Leaning your seat back so far on airplanes that your head is practically in the lap of the passenger behind you.
Tossing paper towels on the floor in restrooms.
Parking in disabled spots when you aren’t disabled.
Going through the express lane at the grocery store with more than ten items.
Bulling your way into the roundabout rather than waiting your turn.
Failing to observe social distancing in public.
Leaving your shopping cart in the parking lot instead of returning it to the designated area.
Coughing or sneezing without covering your mouth.
Discovering you forgot something after all of your groceries have been checked out and bagged and holding up the line while you go searching for it.
Jumping in line ahead of people who are already waiting their turn.
Answering your cell phone in the middle of a conversation.
Using good manners (e.g. saying “please,” “thank you,” “you are welcome,” “yes sir/no sir,” “yes maam/no maam,” and “excuse me”).
We suspect you can add to this list and invite you to do so. Unfortunately, in the absence of common sense, the list continues to grow by the day.
Dr. Goetsch is the author of Veterans’ Lament: Is This the America Our Heroes Fought For? Fidelis Books, an imprint of Post Hill Press, (Release date: October 2020) and Christian Women on the Job: Excelling at Work without Compromising Your Faith, Fidelis Books, an imprint of Post Hill Press, 2020.