Earlier this week, I was invited to be a host on a weekly podcast that some friends/coworkers of mine produce called Around the Wicket. It is basically a bunch of regular guys hanging out and discussing sports, pop-culture, nonsense and pretty much anything else that might draw a laugh.
Throughout the course of that episode, which can be heard here, I learned that I use the words “stupid” and “broke” quite often when describing things that I think should be done differently. In fact, I even asked if I could create my own segment called “That’s Stupid!” While I am within a small group of buddies clowning around, I don’t see that as a problem. But I have noticed a trend in society where, for some reason, we feel as if we need to tell everyone what is stupid and/or what is broken (or broke as I like to say) with what they’re saying or doing.
Basically, anything we don’t agree with is labeled as stupid and anything we think should be done differently is broken. If you would like an example, open your social media page and read the first 2 or 3 posts on your page. You should pretty quickly find something dismissing a political view, a parenting technique, someone’s driving habits, or shaming someone for something they wore to Walmart. Why do we do this? And is there a better way? I think there are a few things that cause us to think people are stupid or that systems are broke.
WE UNDERESTIMATE THEIR INTELLIGENCE (Or overestimate ours)
This is the thing that makes me crazier than the others! Those of us living in the Dallas/Fort Worth area drive through road construction everyday, no matter where you are going to/from. And if you live in my community, Haslet, you have to cross railroad tracks to get pretty much anywhere.
I can’t tell you how many times I have heard someone question (or questioned myself) why the roads are closed when/where they are, why they are doing railroad track repairs on a specific day, what time of day they work on the roads, etc. Do we really think we know better how to reconfigure a highway intersection better than all of the engineers, planners and executives who work at Kiewit, a company that was founded in 1884? Why do we think we should get to determine when and where BNSF works on their 32,500 miles of tracks? They’ve been around for 160 years and operate 1,400 trains a day across 28 states, yet for some reason I feel like I better know how they should manage their maintenance schedule? My suggestion is this: trust in people who are experienced and educated differently than we are. Let’s try to consider for just a minute that not everyone is stupid and making bad decisions. Consider perhaps that there are circumstances beyond your area of expertise that dictate how/why people do the things that they do. We can’t always be the smartest person in the room.
WE DON’T GIVE PEOPLE THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT
I was alone driving down I-35W many years ago when I was cut off by a car changing lanes in front of me. The driver nearly clipped the front of my truck and I had no warning because she didn’t use her turn signal. Someone in my car reacted with an expletive and I quickly changed lanes, sped up next to the car, now in the right lane, MY LANE, so I could show the driver my displeasure. As I peered laser beams in through the driver side window, I noticed a woman who had a look of sheer terror on her face. She meekly waved to me and mouthed, “I’m so sorry” to me and then looked up into her rear-view mirror to check on the small child in the carseat behind her. Here is the deal: she simply did not see me. She wasn’t doing anything wrong and it wasn’t personal, she was just trying to get she and her child somewhere. For some reason, I immediately assumed that she was on the phone, doing make-up or just didn’t care that I was there. Why did I not immediately assume that she was innocent and, being human, prone to mistakes? It wasn’t 10 minutes later, on the same highway, when I was abruptly startled by the sound of a car horn that sounded like it was in my back seat. I quickly looked into my mirror only to realize that I had just nearly ran a car off the road while changing lanes… without using my blinker… by sheer accident. I learned in that moment to give people the benefit of the doubt. We simply cannot live life thinking everyone is out to get us. Is it possible that people are doing the best they can in the moment and have no idea they’re upsetting you?
WE FOCUS MORE ON WHAT WE ARE AGAINST RATHER THAN WHAT WE ARE FOR
I have learned a tremendous number of lessons being on staff at our church, Fellowship of the Parks. One of the values we have as a staff is to be known for what we stand for, not what we are against. This single statement has had a tremendous impact on my life. As much as I like to joke with my friends about what is stupid and what things are broke, I really don’t want to be known for the things I am against. I want to be know as someone who is uplifting and encouraging, not cynical and pessimistic. I want to bring light into a room, not smother it in darkness. I want to be a life-giving spirit, (1Cor 15:45-49) not the guy that sucks the life out people. I want to empower people, not condemn them. I want people to feel good after spending time with me, not bitter and spiteful.
At times, I feel like we as a society are like a bunch of campaigning politicians. You know, where the goal is not to tell you what is desirable about me as a candidate, but rather to tell you all the reasons why the other guy is a scumbag. As a people, we need to overcome the urge to belittle others to prop ourselves up. We need to be known for what we stand for, not for what we are against. We need to learn to trust in the competency of other people and not assume we always know better. And it wouldn’t hurt to start by giving people the benefit of the doubt.
I will close by saying that I do realize that much of this blog post is pointing out what is broke in us as people and how that is a bit ironic. Call me stupid!
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