Just Like Everybody Else

Certainly by now everyone has heard the story of Irving, TX freshman Ahmed Mohamed and his homemade clock. Since I don’t know all the facts or any of the people involved, because I was not at the school or in the classroom or the school’s office or in the police station, I am not going to attempt to take a side or give some socio-political opinion on the event itself. But, I do think there is something we can all agree on: The cause of the confusion in this case is that the clock he made doesn’t look like a clock “should” look.

Ahmed Mohamed's homemade clock

Ahmed Mohamed’s homemade clock

If I asked 100 people to describe to me what a clock looks like, I am assuming I would get the same 3 or 4 descriptions from everyone, but I’d bet NOBODY would describe what Ahmed Mohamed created. It wasn’t like every other clock! You can do this with most any thing, hence the reason Family Feud only has 5 or 6 answers on the board even though they “asked 100 people”. I find it interesting that the number of responses can be generally decreased to only two if the question is about a socio-political issue or when emotions get involved. Then the board only has 2 answers on it and both are worth right around 50 points. This is a phenomenon that has interested me over the last few years. Here are just a few things that I have learned from social issues like gay marriage, police-involved shootings, immigration, and the always divisive timepiece:

PEOPLE ARE WIRED TO BE A CERTAIN WAY

Most of us have been exposed to some type of personality assessment at some point or another like StrengthsFinder 2.0, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, or The Disc test. Most recently, I took the Culture Index assessment and was amazed at just how accurate these tests can be.  FB EcardResearch suggests that by the time you enter your teens, your personality is fairly determined and can be described by using the Big Five personality domains of openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. All this to say that you probably would’ve had similar reactions to today’s landmark social events had they happened when you were 15. It also means that no matter what you post to social media, how passionately you share your opinion, or how great a salesman you are, you ARE NOT going to change the minds of those that respond differently to social or political happenings. Try this experiment when the next social story goes viral: before you read anything they post, go down the list of your Facebook friends and see if you know how they are going to respond before they actually do. My latest data (which means I just made the #’s up) shows that I can predict with 95% accuracy which side of a topic each of my Facebook “friends” will fall on or that they won’t publicly respond to it at all. It’s just the way they are. They are wired that way. I was as certain that my left leaning friends would be upset at the treatment that Ahmed Mohamed received as I was that my conservative friends would say the school did its job the way they should have. That leads me to my next observation…

EVERY ISSUE IS DIVISIVE IN OUR CURRENT CULTURE

Let’s face it, no matter what happens, the vast majority of people are going to line up on the left side or the right side. And every issue, in our minds,  clearly illustrates who has common sense and who are just completely blind idiots. Political seesaw Not only do we hop on our predictable side of every issue, but we do it faster now than ever before. Technology and the advent of social media don’t simply allow us to get news immediately after it happens, we are now in a time where we get wind of things while they are still happening. With less time to gather facts, process information, sort through emotions and discuss with other people, we are even more likely to let our natural personality type take over. We end up thinking just like everybody else does… I mean just like everybody else who is just like us. You know, the people with all the common sense, not the blind idiots. I hate that every major issue our nation faces divides into separate sides of the ring. It really has become a nasty disease in our culture that seems to keep spreading and spreading. Are you fighting out of the red corner or the blue corner? Are you a bleeding-heart liberal or a staunch conservative? Surely there is a better way.

WHICH SIDE WOULD JESUS BE ON?

(Please read on even if you don’t believe in Jesus, God, the Bible or anything religious.)

In my estimation, He would have been on both sides…and neither side. You see, the Bible tells us that Jesus was somehow able to display both 100% grace as well as 100% truth when socio-political issues would arise. Take for example the way he handled Himself (John 8) when the Pharisees wanted to stone a know adulteress. (It’s a story worth reading even if you don’t believe the Bible is true.) The law did say that she should be stoned to death for adultery, but Jesus took a radically different approach. He first extended full grace to her and stood up for her to the Pharisees, suggesting that the one without sin should be the first to throw a stone. Once all of the unforgiving Pharisees had left (in my mind they all walked away with their heads down mumbling under their breath, much like my kids do after being admonished), Jesus comforted the woman and told her she would not be condemned. How very liberal of Jesus! In the next breath, Jesus reminded her that she did bring this upon herself when he told her to “go…and leave (her) life of sin”. Such a conservative that Jesus!

Jesus was the man who least lived like everybody else. He was a bleeding-heart liberal, a staunch conservative, and a moderate independent all rolled into one. The way He responded to people and their imperfections teaches us that we don’t have to quickly choose a side and be divisive. We should strive to see both sides and to simultaneously extend grace and teach truth.  Jesus showed us what all of us “should” look like. Romans 12:2 tells us that we should not conform and be just like everybody else, but to seek to be more like Christ. So when the next thing goes viral and people start choosing teams and you think about posting something supporting your side, no matter which side it is, I hope that you and I will be able to see both sides, to reject divisiveness, and refuse to live just like everybody else.

“Am I a part of the cure? Or am I part of the disease?”

Clocks by Coldplay.

 

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Jets Over My House

An annual air show was here at the Fort Worth Alliance Airport this past weekend and the USAF F-16 jets were out practicing all  last week. The Thunderbirds sometimes fly over at what seems like mere feet overhead and produce that unmistakable, thunderous roar. Very few things give you that chilling, bone shaking feeling that teeters back-and-forth on the border of intimidation and empowerment. A neighbor posted on our community Facebook page that she was annoyed that jets were flying over her house while her toddler was trying to nap. Comments and subsequent posts ranged from “I know, it’s so annoying” to sarcasm such as “yeah, they should arrange practice around nap time” or “you knew the airport was here when you moved in.”

 

This exchange got me thinking about some of the ways that we humans respond to each other and had me wondering why. Please read to the end of this post before you get mad at me as I am going to attempt to examine this as 2 completely different issues rather than acting as FBPD and deciding who is right/wrong. Basically, there were 2 different response types to her post: one of fact or truth, and one of grace or compassion. I am going to quickly chime in on each response as these are generally the same responses we have in all interpersonal interactions.

A response of truth

Truth means “hiding nothing” or “unhidden” when translated from Greek. In English, truth means an honest answer or widely accepted fact. In American, we sometimes translate truth as “telling it like it is, no sugar-coating, no beating-around-the-bush, all-up-in-your-face honesty.” Followers of Christ look to the Bible to teach us what truth is and tell us that we are to hold each other accountable for. In the example of the fighter jets, the truth is that no one person is important enough to plan practice around. Another truth is that fighter jets will wake babies up at times and there is just nothing we can do about it. The truth is that mid-morning, which is generally about toddler nap time, is the perfect time for them to practice! The truth is that making that statement, even on Facebook, is not going to change anything.

 A response of grace or compassion

Grace means favor, blessing, or kindness. (Many Christians think of grace as God giving us blessings that we don’t deserve.) Grace encompasses ideas like unearned forgiveness, understanding, and compassion. In the particular case mentioned above, compassion seemed to given most. It was once suggested to me, and I believe, that the two words in the English language that carry the most power are either, “I know” or “me too.” Sometimes hearing that from someone can act as an affirmation, can make us feel normal, or even begin a healing process. There is great power in knowing that we are not the only ones who (fill in the blank). Specifically, I know how frustrating it can be when something out of the ordinary interrupts that precious little time you have when that toddler is supposed to be asleep. It used to infuriate me too! I can feel her pain. Sometimes people say things simply to voice a frustration and to have it validated by someone else. Much of the time, they don’t expect anything to change in response, they just need to vent.  We see this interaction all the time, even in what some people think are unimportant situations (see below).

Frustrated Saints' fans

FAN #00: “The Saints keep giving away games at the last minute. It is driving me crazy!”

FAN WITH SOUL: “I know, right? Me too!”

FAN #00: “Thanks Fan With Soul, I feel validated, understood and important now.”

(NOTE: These are not exact quotes.)

So what wins out then? Grace or truth?

The lifegroups at my church, Fellowship of the Parks, are doing a study entitled Christian (see below). In one of the messages, Andy Stanley addresses this very question.  This has been my motivation in addressing this topic. He points out which of the two, grace or truth, normally wins out. The answer was very profound to me: it depends on who we are talking about! We tend to lean toward speaking truth, saying exactly how it should be, and setting feelings aside when we are talking about other people. However, we would much prefer the approach of grace, forgiveness, and compassion when it comes to our own situation. Funny how that works, isn’t it? I am as guilty of it as anyone, especially when I find my self in moments of frustration and impatience ,like getting 3 kids off to school in time in the morning.  I will often remind my kids about the Biblical truth about being obedient to (Eph 6:1) and respecting our parents. However, I tend to seek grace when I forget that just 3 verses later (Eph 6:4) we are told not to exasperate or anger our children. After all, if they wouldn’t…. nevermind.

http://fellowshipoftheparks.com/

Does there have to be a winner?

Is it possible that we can live in such a way that we are able to speak truth and hold people accountable while still affording expansive amounts of grace? What if we spoke truth equally as much as grace? What if we showed grace each and every time we felt the need to speak the truth? Because neither you nor I are Jesus, chances are we will never be constantly full of both grace AND truth, we will always tend to lean more toward one or the other. My encouragement to you is this: if it isn’t blatantly clear which is most appropriate, perhaps we need to refer to the Golden Rule of treating others the way we want to be treated. Or it is quite possible that we don’t need to speak at all.

Please feel free to comment on the content above, but I’d appreciate if you don’t weigh in on the Facebook post I used as an example.

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