Sunday, December 22, 2013

People Matter

My last post was a long one, and I thank you for sticking it out with me.  Originally, I was going to divide it into two posts, but I didn’t want to leave part of it hanging there with an unfinished idea.  I needed to get it all out.
It brought me back to a post that I read a few months ago that called out my own biases against others and helped me understand that I needed to give more respect and understanding.  Kathy Escobar wrote a blog post about the infamous question of What’s Your Position On?  Have you ever asked that question before deciding if you could respect someone or not?  I have.  And I am ashamed of that.  Kathy wrote about how the question is usually asked not out of wanting to understand someone better, but out of a need of our own to decide if we can respect someone or not, if they are on our team or the other one.

The question is divisive.
Although I was ashamed of being called out, I was grateful as well.  I needed that eye opener of the assumptions I made about people when I found out those answers.  And maybe I wasn’t always asking the question, maybe their perspectives on life were coming out in conversation, and I would immediately put up a wall that would close down further discussion.

I wasn’t being respectful of another person’s position or perspective.  I was no longer interested in their story.
I was being lazy.

In our current world of updating a status with a one liner or a quick like/share, we don’t take the time to stop and think.  And negatively always spreads faster than kindness and understanding.
Have you noticed that before?  Someone around you is having a bad day and the mood spreads. It is easier to express frustration with someone than take a breath.  Sarcasm flies out of the mouth before the heart can stop it.

Respect and kindness can be challenging.  And time consuming.
Sometimes, we want to numbly move along.

But in this numbness, we are quick to write or say harsh words.  We don’t stop to think.
Words matter.  Actions matter.

People matter.
When we ask this question of wanting someone’s position on an issue out of a need to make a determination if we are aligned with them or not, if we can show respect for them or not, we are dismissing their value as a person.  Suddenly, we only see them as an issue.  We no longer want to hear their story.

We start to lose our humanity in the process. 
We stop caring about people who may not agree with our issue.  Someone from the other team.

And that is a choice that we are actively making.  I am reminded of Jacob Marley from a Christmas Carol:
“I wear the chain I forged in life....I made it link by link, and yard by yard;
I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.”

When we make this choice, we lose our compassion for others.  Because we think people need to do things our way, think the way that we do.
We all lose with that choice.  Because we put everyone in their little boxes, where we can forget about them…where we don’t have to care about them.

What happens when we try to understand someone’s perspective on their issue?  Their story?  What happens when we look for our common humanity?
It’s uncomfortable.  We have to get beyond the labels, the issues.  Sometimes it feels like that goes against every fiber of our being.

The result though….the result is that we have richer relationships with people. 
The result is that the impulse to spout out a sarcastic word, email or status update diminishes.  Maybe it doesn’t completely go away.  We aren’t perfect after all.  But maybe instead of posting that, we take a breath and leave it.  We start a conversation with someone.  We remember that we love this person and want to be respectful.

This is a work in progress for me.  Perfection doesn’t exist. 
I think to another Jacob Marley gem:

"Mankind was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The deals of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”
It’s funny to me that I quote Jacob Marley here because when I was a kid and saw the many remakes of a Christmas Carol, I was often scared of the ghost, simply because he was angry ghost.  With the eyes of an adult, I see why he was so passionate.
Because people matter.

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Be kind, not judgey