This has been on my mind lately–mostly because it has become deeply evident to me that some have forgotten how to show it to others. Here on my blog, I try to steer clear of getting-things-off-my-chest posts, and I rarely share my feelings on ‘issues’. However, something happened this week that got me thinking about this again, because it characterizes what I have been seeing amongst people over the past few years. People are polarized in a way that is as old as time, but the blatant disrespect that I’ve witnessed more recently is new to me. It’s not that I have never seen anyone argue, but it seems that people are much more touchy and offendable these days, and willing to bare their teeth over small disagreements like I’ve never seen before. Perhaps it is my age, or that I wasn’t paying attention when I was younger, but I have seen more often lately that this polarization halts any kind of learning from one another, or bending in our thinking at all. People seem profoundly easy to offend these days when they are simply disagreed with to the point that it’s frustrating and disheartening to watch, and worse when we are on the receiving end of it.
Perhaps this is the reason why I long so deeply for the quiet, simple life, where bunnies nuzzle my hands lovingly, looking for a nose scritch; and chickens follow me around, clucking contentedly, happy just to be scratching around in whatever part of the yard I happen to be working. It’s an easy life–despite the work–because in simply keeping our heads down and accomplishing our daily tasks, there isn’t much room for disrespect or argument. It’s just straightforward work, and of course, fellowship with the creatures that we care for who do not care what political party we belong to, whether or not we like the president, belong to the NRA, or eat organic. It’s a life of harmony…harmony with God’s creation…with the earth and how it sustains us…and, for me, harmony with God. This simple kind of life is a reprieve from the rat race, the jockeying for position, and the pride that causes others to feel and express that they are somehow better, smarter, more knowledgeable than the next guy, who is also made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27).
Maybe it’s naive to think that this could be any different than it is, but I tend to want to believe the best about others as much as possible. As I’ve settled into this position, I’ve done so after years of learning that all people, no matter who they are, have a story; and as I’ve been given the opportunity to hear some of them (and perhaps learn why they think the way they do), I don’t always come to agreement with them, the choices they are making, the lifestyle they might be living, etc., but I do hopefully come to a firmer understanding of who they are, and as a fellow human being, come to a less polar viewpoint. One thing I know for sure is that each and every one of us needs compassion and love, and for the Christian, our perfect model (Jesus) displayed the kind of compassion and love that we all need. That’s what I want to share with others, and I want to be able to do it despite any differences there are between us.
I got to thinking about what respect means to me, and thought I would share it here, not that I think any of you really need to hear it. It’s more for me so I can get my thoughts out on ‘paper’. This list is by no means exhaustive, nor is it a directive that I’m putting forth, but rather a list of thoughts that might help to provoke in me good will toward others. Maybe they will help you too. Who knows? Perhaps if we keep them in mind, we just might win some respect back, earn the opportunity to appeal to another’s heart on important matters, or, for the Christian, even win them to Christ.
- it means that I treat others kindly, even when they do not believe what I believe
- it means that I treat those who are like me, and those who aren’t, equally (James 2)
- it means that I do not wish those who have differing opinions than I do any ill will at all, but rather, the same good will that God wishes for them
- it means that I understand that I may offend others, but I try my best not to while still walking in accordance with my faith
- it means that I sometimes walk away from a conversation when it is becoming anti-productive to us both
- it does not mean that I ‘run over’ people in conversation if they do not agree with me (this one can be difficult for me, but I’m working on it)
- it does not mean that I ridicule others if they have a different opinion
- it does mean that I share Christ when others are open, but if they are not, I do not ‘cast my pearls’ so to speak (NOT that I’m calling anyone swine, mind you, it’s just a figure of speech)