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In Defense of Our Humanity


This week a friend and I released an episode of our podcast, discussing how the lens through which we see (and consequently judge) another person has become one made up of soundbites, memes, tweets and bumper stickers. We shared that we believe we can do better. Be better.

We knew going in there was a strong likelihood of ruffling a few feathers or being judged ourselves (by soundbites and snippets) of what we discussed as opposed to being seen for our message as a whole.

And let me tell you, we were right.

It wasn’t long before I found myself fighting the urge to label, judge and slightly vilify those who came against us in order to feel safe.

And embarrassingly enough, I was also fighting the need to feel ‘superior’ (which is really just another way of feeling in control and self-protected).

I even went so far as to justify my thinking with thoughts like “See?! They’re exactly what’s wrong with this world!”

Don’t worry. I didn’t actually say it or put it in writing.

Well… until now.

Hello, Pot? This is Kettle calling.”

(Sigh. Eye roll. Hang head.)

Then, I remembered this quote from Fred Rogers. Also known as our beloved Mr. Rogers.

He said, “Love is at the root of everything. Love or lack of it.

Ok, Fred. I hear you.

Then, there’s this from Proverbs; “Hate stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.”

Hmm... I'm sensing a theme...

And this theme got me thinking.

What if every time someone acted prickly, our brains flashed a ticker-tape, cueing us in on his or her motivation for their action?

Fear was at the root of that statement.”

“They’ve just lost a loved one.”

“They’re lonely and afraid.”

“They’re going through a difficult time.”

“They’re struggling with addiction.”

“They are dying.”

What might change in us and how we relate to others if we began to think through this grid? If we reminded ourselves that those memes and soundbites and bumper stickers may be part of their story, but it’s not their whole story.

Beyond their pain, what if the tickertape showed us a different side of them too.

“They just started an orphanage in Uganda.”

“They foster special needs kids.”

“They help under-resourced families with their bills.”

“They embrace refugees in their community and beyond.”

I know we can’t actually get that ticker-tape.

But we can train ourselves to wonder about such things before we respond.

Now, in the case of those snippets that rub us the wrong way, you might be thinking “Someone’s crappy experience doesn’t give them license to be crappy to others.”

And you would be right.

I’m just saying maybe it’s not our job to call that out for them.

Maybe our job is to love them until they can see it for themselves. Because there’s another quote that says “love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

(1 Cor. 13:7)

Because love conquers all.

In other words, their crappy response doesn’t give us license to treat them crappy either.

Yeah, I know. Ouch.

It ouches me too.

Believe me when I say I’m in need of this message just as much as anyone.

That’s why I wrote it.

I realize I may be opening the door to plenty of ‘testing’ here, but I also know I will need that to grow. I need it if I have any hope of making even the smallest difference to a hurting world.

Yet, if you’re like me, you still wonder "What about those who choose to interact mainly through snippets and soundbites, bumper stickers and memes? How should we respond when it shows up in our social media? Are we not allowed to have opinions? Do we have to agree with everyone?’"

Here is something that is helping me.

A word study of sorts.

Not necessarily straight from the dictionary, but a slightly tweaked version of each. They are helping me think differently about how I react and respond. Consider the following...

Opinion: a belief stronger than impression and less strong than positive knowledge. Not necessarily based on fact. Often related to personal experiences and often related to core beliefs inherited from parents, familial connections or peer groups.

Judgment: Using our values, experiences, lessons learned etc. to make a categorical decision (good/bad; right/wrong; helpful/unhelpful; dangerous/safe; moral/amoral).

Judgmental: Characterized by a tendency to judge harshly. A stance we take on a certain topic or person based on biases; something we do in order to self-protect or vilify to feel in control or superior. A negative statement based on how a person lives their lives counter to our values. (Yeah, I know. I heard it too.)

A condition of our heart.

Think of judgmental-ism (‘ism’, since some people can make it their philosophy or system) as a detour allowing us to avoid looking at the humanity of another who may be different from us, ultimately for fear of finding, deep down, they’re not as different as we need to believe they are.

“…they’re not as different as we need to believe they are.”

Perhaps I will make that my mantra as I scroll through my social media feeds. I think I’ll make this the stone I will cast into the sea of humanity.

It may be a small stone, but even the smallest stone creates a ripple that can eventually reach shore.

What about you?

What is your stone and where will you cast it today?