Something often happens to people exposed to repeated trauma. Gradually, they become conditioned to accept the horrors as commonplace. Time and brutality starts to wear down their defenses and sap their emotional resources and they begin learn to live alongside the most malignant sickness as if it were ordinary.

Slowly but quite decidedly they grow numb to the unthinkable cruelty and the sustained violence until it all begins to seem normal. Eventually they lose the ability to be outraged or to push back or to even care. Self-preservation begins to craft a story in their heads where the most inhumane treatment is within reason.

This is the greatest challenge we face in these terrible days. We can’t let this become normal.

We can’t allow ourselves to grow so acclimated to the relentlessness and frequency of the viciousness we are seeing—that it no longer turns our stomachs and boils our blood and pierces our hearts. We can’t let our fatigue drive us to apathy.

The steady stream of gas-lighting tweet propaganda, the new and creative legislative assaults on vulnerable people birthed each morning, the dehumanizing rhetoric toward the different, the growing inhumanity we see at our borders, the dog-and-pony faith and the fake patriotism of the rallies, and the clear mentally instability of a leader whose sole intention at any given moment is to seek a new moral bottom—we can’t make peace with any of it.

No, none of this is normal. It is simply unacceptable, which is why we can’t surrender so much that we accept it.

This behavior is antithetical to health and to diversity and to unity and to decency, and the day we allow ourselves to grow anesthetized to it all, is the day we lose the battle for these things for good. It is the day that our morality and our personal faith fatally fails us. It’s the day America slides into the abyss.

Today is an important day. Today there will be more entrepreneurial malevolence generated by those in power, there will be more unhinged social media ramblings designed to distract and distort, there will be a disheartening newsfeed waiting to pummel you with novel atrocities, there will be a flood of such shocking unkindness that you will be tempted to relent to it all.

Please don’t. Refuse to make peace with such madness today. Allow yourself to be newly outraged, to be deeply grieved again, to get sickened at the sight of it all once more—and let that fuel your activism.

Transform all that outrage and grief and sickness into a fitting and visible response against what should not be abided by decent human beings.

Do this to hold on to your humanity, do it so that those who are under duress right now will know they’re not alone, and do it so that the exhausted people around you are reminded that the cruelty they are slowly growing accustomed to isn’t to be accepted.

Children in cages is not normal. Vulnerable people being preyed upon by our government is not normal. White Christian nationalism shaping our legislation is not normal. A President live tweeting his mental degradation is not normal.

This is not at all normal.

And the greatest collective and individual sin of those of us witnessing it all, would be to let it become normal.

John Pavlovitz

The original version of this Op Ed was published on

John Pavlovitz launched an online ministry to help connect people who want community, encouragement, and to grow spiritually. Individuals who want to support his work can sponsor his mission on Patreon, and help the very real pastoral missionary expand its impact in the world.