Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Do You Have Statisticsphobia?

How many of you, at some point, have heard a phrase similar to the following: 
"Graduate from high school, and go to college--after all, do you want to be flipping burgers for the rest of your life?"

According to a the National Center for Education Statistics, in the 2011-2012 academic year, 81% of high school students graduated on time with a diploma. So that leaves 19% who did not. I'm sure many high school students and/or their parents don't want to fall into that second statistic. So they find themselves motivated by the presence of the negative statistic and get their work done to graduate. 

When I was a freshman at Franciscan University, I heard a few times--from different students--that a study on marriage and divorce rates had supposedly been done. According to these students, 50% of marriages of FUS students who graduated ended in divorce; hence, what good can come of FUS students marrying each other before or after graduation? While this statistic is totally unfounded (one of our instructors last semester mentioned that he did a study which debunked this rumor), it points to an interesting reality: we let ourselves be ruled by a fear of becoming negative statistics. 

When I was an engaged nineteen-year-old, a few different people--thinking of only my best interest--would tell me about the higher divorce rates and presence of abuse among young married couples. So, they would try to ask me if I really should get married as a twenty-year-old. I mean, look at the presence of divorce out there! Look at the life of so-and-so who had an abusive, young marriage! Why would I want to marry, when I could become yet another negative statistic? 

But if we live in fear of becoming negative statistics, what will our lives look like? Because vending machines killed 37 people between 1978 and 1995, does that mean we shouldn't go anywhere near the machines? Since 41.5 people, on average, die a year from skiing and snowboarding, does that mean we stay off the slopes? The odds of dying due to choking on your food are 1 in 4,404, but does this mean we should stop eating? Just because a person is more likely to die from falling out of bed, a chair, or other household furniture than while traveling by train, should we avoid relaxing on furniture altogether? Statistics can be good; they can help us see areas where we should put forth a bit more care and caution. But letting ourselves fear being a negative statistic, and guiding our lives by this fear, isn't really living. We need to let ourselves be ruled by Someone stronger than this fear of failing, this fear of becoming one of the negative statistics out there. God gives us the strength, wisdom, and grace that we need to go through all sufferings, trials, and challenges. Yes, we fail at times--but God will always pick us up again. 

Don't exist in fear, but live your life in love, courage, and hope! Don't let any ol' statistics keep you from doing the will of God (like getting married young)--prove those statistics wrong! Above all, keep in mind the awesome First Reading from Mass today: 

Beloved, if God so loved us,
we also must love one another. 
No one has ever seen God. 
Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us,
and his love is brought to perfection in us.

This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us,
that he has given us of his Spirit. 
Moreover, we have seen and testify
that the Father sent his Son as savior of the world. 
Whoever acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God,
God remains in him and he in God. 
We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us.

God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him. 
In this is love brought to perfection among us,
that we have confidence on the day of judgment
because as he is, so are we in this world. 
There is no fear in love,
but perfect love drives out fear
because fear has to do with punishment,
and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love. (emphasis mine)
(1 Jn 4:11-18)

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