Mentality of Starvation

John Levine from Baylor University wrote a great article in the Nov. 2016 issue of the Journal of Religion and Health where he challenges the narrative about religion and research but more of that later. His introduction to that article is what really fascinated me.

Levine tells the story of the Israelites after they cross the Red Sea and begin bellyaching about starving. They bellyache even though God had provided manna. Levine says the Israelites searched hard for a food that would relieve their starvation. This search was so obsessive the Israelites ignored what was right in front of them. Levine called this the Mentality of Starvation.

This phrase caused me to wonder what mentalities of starvation that we have in nursing. Are we so starved for self esteem that we will do almost anything for a word of praise? To avoid conflict?

Are we so starved for self confidence that we will do almost anything to avoid doing something difficult? Are we so starved for love of self we let others use us as a door mat? Are we so starved of genuine humility that we do almost anything to avoid saying “I don’t know?” Or are we quick to say we are wrong in order to just appear humble?

For the Israelites, the answer to their starvation was right in front of them—the manna God had given them. The Mentality of Starvation had caused them to ignore the fact that their needs had been met, just not in the way they wanted.

For many us, the answer to the starvations we feel for self esteem, self confidence, love of self, and humility are often right in front of us. They just don’t look the way we think they should. The answer to many of these challenges may be something as simple as:

  • Look
  • Watch
  • Be open
  • Try what you can before wanting something else

Back to Levine. He says, convincingly, that religion and research have a long and rigorous history. Many of the myths surrounding religion and research (e.g. such research lacks rigor or such research is really fringe research) stem from immature attitudes. Immature attitudes include asserting something must or must not be true for emotional reasons or ideological crusades where a position is proven or disproved based on one single flawed study.

Levine recommends a deep commitment to systematically and dispassionately understand the connection between religion and health, to describe who experiences this connection, how they experience this, and to look for models that explain this connection that are understandable and applicable to other situations and circumstances.

Such a challenge is not only daunting but exciting and will do well for our profession. Next month I will talk more about how such dispassionate understanding can be attempted.

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