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Why Are People Acting So Weird?

Everyone is acting so weird! The most obvious recent weirdness was when Will Smith smacked Chris Rock at the Oscars. But people have been behaving badly on smaller stages for months now. Last week, a man was arrested after he punched a gate agent at the Atlanta airport. People also found ways to throw tantrums while skiing—skiing. In one viral video, a man slid around the chairlift-boarding area, one foot strapped into his snowboard as he flailed at security guards and refused to comply with a mask mandate.

During the pandemic, bad behavior of all kinds has increased. Americans are driving more recklessly, crashing their cars, and killing pedestrians at higher rates. Health-care workers say their patients are behaving more violently, as a result, Missouri hospitals planned to outfit nurses with panic buttons. In 2020, the US murder rate rose by nearly a third, the biggest increase on record, then rose again in 2021. And if there were a national tracker of school-board-meeting hissy fits, it would be heaving with data points right now.

What on earth is happening? How did Americans go from clapping for health-care workers to threatening to kill them? More than a dozen experts on crime, psychology, and social norms suggest few possible explanations:

We’re all stressed out: One explanation for the spike in bad behavior is the rage, frustration, and stress coursing through society right now. Everyone is teetering slightly closer to their breaking point. Someone who may have lost a job, a loved one, or a friend to the pandemic might be pushed over the edge.

People are drinking more: People have been coping with the pandemic by drinking more and doing more drugs. A lot of these incidents involve somebody using a substance. Americans have been drinking 14 percent more days a month during the pandemic, and drug overdoses have also increased since 2019.

We’re social beings, and isolation is changing us: The pandemic loosened ties between people: Kids stopped going to school; their parents stopped going to work; parishioners stopped going to church; people stopped gathering, in general. Sociologists think all of this isolation shifted the way we behave. The rise in disorder may simply be the unsavory side of a uniquely difficult time—one in which many people were tested, and some failed.

Possible Preaching Angle:

Extraordinary times reveal that our civilized veneer is very thin. Stress strips away the manners that people use as masks and shows true character of the old nature. Only the new nature that God implants in the redeemed can cope with stressful, disruptive times (2 Cor. 5:17; Rom. 8:1-39).

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