I originally heard about the downward spiral in the marriage book “Love and Respect”. The husband does something wrong, the wife reacts negatively; no one wants to take the blame and so it just spirals downward from there. Mainly when no one is willingly to break the cycle.
While the spiral happens often in marriages, it happens just as often in other organizations. A team, a family, a business or in a nation.
No one likes the results of the downward spiral, but most people dislike the out even more. The out being to admit your mistakes. A knock on your pride; a lesson in humility. No one wants a piece of humble pie!
I coach an American football team in Brazil. It has been challenging in a different culture teaching a sport that requires such discipline. How do I enforce showing up to practice when the culture so easily accepts whatever excuse? I have wanted to just play those who come to practice every time, but playing with 5 players pretty much guarantees a loss. Some on the team get mad about those who don’t practice; in turn they tend to have a bad attitude. Others on the team get mad at those who have a bad attitude. Throw in some other excuses as well and you have a team full of excuses as to why they should not buy in to the program and go all out in training for the team. It is a downward spiral!
As I mentioned I live in Brazil, but am American. Both countries have their share of problems. I think of the racism problem in the US right now. There are plenty of people that are not racist and want to help solve the problems, but there is enough that just point to the “problems” on the other side of the fence and are not willing to point to their own problems. The quick downward spiral has been intriguing for those in the country who thought the racism problem had greatly diminished!
Brazil is going through a crisis right now mainly due to dishonesty and theft. Many high ranking officials have put lots of money into their own accounts. The people are furious at the politicians and are trying to take them down one by one. But the very way the election process works almost requires every politician to be corrupt. When you look at the culture, there are many norms within the culture that are dishonest. The people in general are dishonest. But the finger is pointed elsewhere when looking to discover the problem. (To some people’s credit, this has been pointed out before by people saying that they themselves are the problem).
The gospel saves us from downward spirals. Built into the gospel is the fact that we mess up; we are wrong and deserving of the worst of consequences if it were not for Jesus being humble, coming down as a man and giving His life for us. The gospel driven life triggers a humility (at least it should) that can reverse the downward spiral. Accepting that you are a sinner in need of a Savior (that is not yourself) is very freeing. Instead of pointing fingers, we inwardly realize that we need to work on ourselves first and as much as we work, it is really only God’s grace that saves us! This helps us in not so furiously accusing others. We can help to build solutions not confusion!