Tired of rudeness, crudeness, hateful monologues? Tired of hearing of threats, fights, gunfights? At a loss as to how to respond or make a difference? I hear the question from people across the spectrum of political perspectives: why are people so mean?

Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.

 For the judgment you give will be the judgment you get,

and the measure you give will be the measure you get.”  Mt 7: 2

We struggle to challenge the ugliness in society, much less among friends or colleagues. We think it is not our place to judge. Worse, we have been bullied and are afraid we will get hurt, truly hurt, or even killed.

First, it is not wrong to reflect back to a person your experience of their statements. You are sharing about yourself. As hard as it may be to “see something, hear something, say something,” responding in the moment is an act of kindness. By expressing your own perception of something as hurtful, and as a way of speaking that you will not engage with, you are engaging with a person in a new way. This kind of dialogue infers that you care more about how the two of you relate to one another than whether one of you is right.

Examples: “That comment was hurtful, mean, because I believe/I felt/I heard..,” “I respond better to kindness than to tone of voice/these words/doing this violence,” “I will not participate in this kind of talk or action because it is cruel and dangerous.”

Also, if you lower your vocal register toward a tenor/bass sound, and speak very quietly, it shifts the listener’s posture toward you.

All these options are simply tools for decreasing aggressive conversation, and de-escalating stress, which I have used with people angry about their own illnesses, or caregiving responsibilities, or dying, at moments when anger overflowed and threats were being tossed around like candy.

ALWAYS leave a dangerous situation if you can. Not becoming a victim of a life-threatening act is an act of kindness because it diminishes damage.

The “Problem” with Us

Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye but do not notice the log in your own eye? 

Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’

while the log is in your own eye? Mt 7: 3-4

If we think we are not part of the problem, we are too isolated from those we look down upon and too self-absorbed to notice the pain we ourselves inflict- sometimes by what we do not say and do not do.

Silence and ignorance are complicit in creating a world where some say, “what’s wrong with those people?”

Yet, when we are self-reflective, instead of asking about “those,” we ask about ourselves with love and become better behaved advocates, we have a greater capacity for compassion. Thus, we can love our neighbors. As others have said, everyone has their own demons and is fighting battles largely by themselves. Compassion invites us to regard mean behavior as the outcome of sin’s power over us, the very thing Jesu has come to defeat. Healing was his “weapon” of choice. He regarded everyone from the point of view that Sin, with a capital S, had worked evil upon them and they needed to be freed from captivity, released from prison. The key to those cell doors was unconditional love.

Cruelty can’t beat Compassion

In this way, seeing people behaving in mean and cruel ways, first as beloved children of God, second as trapped in the power of Sin, and third as those Jesus has compassion for, we, too, can be freed to fulfill our own calling to be ambassadors of reconciliation and stewards of the mysteries of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The practice of compassion which allows us to, “first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.” (Mt 7: 2-5), is the path of courageous healing and reconciliation which transforms us as followers of Jesus Christ.

Go in peace, and let your light shine! RevBev