In the past week, I have gotten several messages from people who were worried that I was upset with them for some reason. In not one single instance was I annoyed, angry, hurt, frustrated, or grumpy with that person. However, I have been offline a lot more – slower to respond to messages and such – so I understand how my change in pattern is off-putting.
I also understand because I have been known to do this in my own life – assume that when someone doesn’t respond to me I have done something to irk them. I’ve sent messages saying, “Are you okay?” when what I mean is, “Are you mad at me?” I get it; sometimes we are all a little insecure and nervous.
I have to say, though, that this pattern, this frequency of queries has me concerned on a larger scale because it seems to be a symptom of the kind of passive-aggressive or downright aggressive “conversation” I’m seeing around the web. If we are all so volatile about our perspectives, stolid in our beliefs, heated in our words, it’s absolutely no wonder we’re all a little on edge and nervous that we might have offended. Some days it seems like I have offended the planet just by breathing air.
No less than three times yesterday did I read someone calling a group of people “idiots.” Over and over on my Facebook wall, I’ve seen my friends insult one another, and I’ve watched the friends of others do the same. I cannot fathom how we have gotten to this place where we have chosen to resort to name-calling and, as my granny would say, “ugliness” when it comes to discourse.
I’ve been thinking a lot about grace lately. My pastor Warren preached about grace vs the law on Sunday, and the idea got me thinking about how I define grace. Here’s my working definition:
Grace is the willingness to look for the reasons why the people around us do the things they do. It’s the desire to understand a person’s story and to see how that story shapes their choices. It’s the choice to love even when we don’t agree, when we know the person is “wrong,” when we see their decisions may be hurting themselves or others. Grace is the way God looks at me and says, I love you no matter what. No matter what you do, what you believe, what you say. I love you.
Grace is not pretending to like everyone. Grace is not overlooking when people hurt themselves or others. Grace is not acting as if there is no right and wrong in the world. Grace is seeing that people are wounded and broken and, thus, make the choices of broken and wounded people. Grace is loving them no matter what.
Perhaps this is why we use the word “grace” for the time when we all join together in prayer before a meal.
I wonder if we don’t choose to be so righteous – so RIGHT-eous – because it’s easier. If we can write people off for being liberal or conservative, city slickers or country folk, Sikh or Mormon, it’s easier. Then, we don’t have to figure out how to love people with whom we don’t agree and who are harder to understand than the people “just like us.”
But if we keep cutting off people because they’re not “like us,” I figure we’ll all end up alone, right?
To all my dear friends, I love you, even when the farm and the puppy and the book keep me from responding quickly or at all. Trust me that I will come to you -as lovingly as I can – if there is something we need to discuss. To all the people I would love to call my friends if we had world enough and time, I would love you, too. And as we meet, you have my word that I will do my best to show you grace as it has been so vastly shown to me.
To God, there are no idiots, only beloved, broken people. I’d like to live that more myself.
What do you see as happening in our discourse, in our relationships with other? What is causing those traits? How do we improve them?