If you're reading this, chances are you're someone who either somewhat regularly considers what I put out there or you were simply intrigued by the title of this post. Either way, I have your attention, and am desperate to share some things with you that you need to consider as you go into this new year. I know this language is somewhat extreme, but the opportunity for you to listen with the required ear is rare. After all, this week we're in is normally a time to take stock of the past as you consider your ideal hope for the future.
I'd also like to say that everything I'm about to to share is something I really agree with and believe in, only they aren't ideas I'm bringing up on my own. Specifically, I want to use this post to help you understand "some of what I've been hearing." This includes emails I receive from people in crisis, conversations I have with those whose hearts have been broken, chit-chat I take part in when I'm paying for my gas or buying groceries, and observations I make simply by... well... observing.
So while what follows are my words, it is more accurate to say that these are the thoughts and feelings of the people around you whom you may have no clue about what they are going through.
And they're right next to you.
- A Resolution I Beg You To Make:
"I resolve to stop talking about people in 'us versus them' categories."
You know that person you enjoy talking about? The one who isn't quite like you or the people in your household? The one who may listen to different music or vote for a different candidate or who raises their kids with different values than you? The one who you would love to have out of your life, only for some reason they keep crossing your path - because they work with you, carpool with you, live by you, attend church services with you, or show up to the same extracurriculars that you do?
That person wrote me something this week that broke my heart.
Because you have been breaking their heart.
Oh, you may not realize it... because you're not calling them nasty names like you might have in junior high. At least, not to their face. Maybe just around the water cooler, or as you look out your front or back window, or online. It's like your behavior is somewhat junior high-esque in that you're giving them the silent treatment in person while grumbling about them behind closed doors.
But they hear you. Trust me... they hear you.
As you look down your nose at the way they talk, dress, or live, you are boxing this person not just out of your life but out of any chance they have of feeling whole around you or your relational circle. Sort of like an insecure teenager trying to be The School Playa or the Queen Bee.
Granted, it's not like you have to become fishing buddies or scrapbooking sisters with everyone, but come on... you're being petty and mean and are tearing apart any chance they have of feeling like a person of any worth when they are around.
Then again, maybe you do realize it. Maybe somewhere deep down you know that you are intentionally making this person feel unwelcome, and are attempting to feel better about yourself by making them feel horrible.
A question - have you ever felt judged or labeled by someone else? Do you remember what it felt like for there to be a line in the sand and on one side was "us" and on the other side was "them?"
If so... and you're tired of seeing hypocrisy continue in the world... stop letting it continue through your life.
Because, again... you're hurting real people with real feelings.
- A Resolution I Beg You To Make:
"I resolve to stop finger pointing and instead fix the problem with enduring energy."
You may not want to hear this.
Actually, I'm unfortunately confident you don't.
Because the more I observe the patterns in our culture, the more I find that people enjoy their pain more than they care to admit. Specifically, the security that their pain gives them to blame another person for a past wrong than the insecurity of committing to work it out, "no matter what."
After all, it's a whole lot easier to talk about how you were hurt by something someone said or did than it is to admit you are capable of changing the world.
Often when people drive in crazy ways around me, I find myself facing the same temptation you do - to use my middle finger and a whole bunch of unproductive words to let them know how I felt about that. But I resolved a long time ago to not just be angry at the way the world is but to join Jesus in redeeming it. So when I face that road rage temptation I instead wait for the next red light, get out of my car, walk over to the car (at a distance, so to not appear antagonistic), ask that person to roll their window down, and then I say, "Excuse me. That was quite dangerous. Could you please not do that again?" 100% of the time, the person feels awkward that I broke the imaginary line and apologizes back.
Maybe that's not the best example, because it's quite dangerous to talk to someone after such a moment. But my hope is the next time they presume to cut someone off in traffic - perhaps an elderly person, or a new teen driver, or my wife and kids - they will think twice and remember some loon who approached them with manners and forthrightness.
But the example serves the point - you can either finger point and deconstruct what's wrong with the world... or you can enter into chaos so as to soothe it into something more productive. Maybe that chaos is stuff in your family, or the way things go down at work or school on a regular basis. Don't just "try" to change it with 10% of your energy... commit to that change for the long haul with 100% of your energy.
Because you will be looked at as a loon, and it will be somewhat dangerous and insecure.
But I'll tell you from personal experience... the payoff is worth it.
- A Resolution I Beg You To Make:
"I resolve to make it my business."
When I worked for a Boys & Girls Club a few years back, one of the employees often told the kids to "mind their own business" whenever they would inform him of something another kid was doing wrong. Keep in mind, it was in an urban neighborhood and so the discipline policies in the club needed to be quite clear. I thought it was often handled quite well, but on this particular philosophy I disagreed. The last thing that neighborhood needed were kids who would grow up and learn that it was wrong to speak up if they saw something wrong going down in their neighborhood.
But that is what we tell people (or ourselves) when we see someone on a downward spiral. It could be their addiction to something that we presume we have no right to speak into, or maybe how they're treating a mutual friend and we're afraid of "getting caught in the middle." Plain and simple, if you are able to recognize that something isn't right, then it is up to you to become a part of the solution.
As much as we try to live as individuals, the bottom line is we are one big community. If what happens on one side of the globe affects the other (hello - have you seen gas prices in recent years?), then why do we presume what happens in our own circle of relationships doesn't have any affect on us, our households, our cities, our regions, our states, and so forth?
You know why we like those positive human interest stories in the paper so much? Because someone had the courage to do what we knew we should have done... someone made a problem "their business" and at least one other person's life changed forever.
- You'll keep hurting the people you don't realize you're hurting.
- You'll keep finger pointing instead of grabbing onto anything.
- You'll keep waiting for someone else to see the problem that you already do.
I know you nodded your head at least one as you read this.
Please... please... now nod your life in this direction as well.
Me? I'm in...
and I intend to prove it.