Walk a Mile in His Shoes

Yesterday, I posted an article to my husband’s Facebook page in reference to this tweet:
Doing so attracted this comment from one of his more vocal Christian friends:
“What am I missing? We abandoned God decades ago ( right around the time we started falling apart).
So….1.) Where the hell does anyone now get off telling us He’s useless?
… And 2.) How the hell would His enemies know what prayers he answering and How He’s doing it?”
I don’t normally respond to these sorts of things because if I regularly commented and replied to every thing that was “offensive” or combative to/toward me, I would live in the most negative, feisty headspace, which just sounds exhausting. But this one rubbed me the wrong way. I slept on it to make sure I wasn’t coming from that angry reflex place I like to fight from. I wanted to share how I responded because I believe with all my heart that if we take the time to think and understand where a person’s motivations are coming from, we just might be able to love each other a little better.

Hi [person], 

We don’t know each other, but since you commented on a link I shared, I thought I would try to respond. Coming from a strict Roman Catholic background, I have a lot experience with both sides of this coin. 

Firstly, it’s not anti-religious to believe “thoughts and prayers” aren’t enough in the face of an epidemic of gun violence. Nor is it saying that you shouldn’t continue to pray for those families affected by this violence. 

Secondly, I would posit that this tweet and the other articles/posts like it are a call to action, particularly against those lawmakers who are only offering platitudes instead of plans. A call to step up and fight for a better world, and not wait for someone else to do it for us. One who believes in the teachings of Jesus Christ can recall that he himself called upon those listening to do more than just prophesize. Matthew 23 reads, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them.” So yes, if it is what you are called to do, pray and pray often. But also, one can do what’s necessary to put those prayers to action. 

The senator who tweeted that yesterday represents the Sandy Hook community who are still reeling, three years later, from that unspeakable tragedy. I can remember that day like it was yesterday. [husband] and I sat in our living room that evening as President Obama read the name of each of those victims – those children – holding our babies so tight as tears streamed down our faces. We looked at each other with such fear and hopelessness; we gazed into our son’s eyes wondering what world we have brought these boisterous lights into. What that senator has seen since that time, with his experience in working and living with those families, is that our government and people are not doing enough – in his opinion – to rein in the rampant gun violence. He is frustrated, and hurt, and pissed, and fired up. He wants to see action so other families don’t have to go through the same heartbreak. 

So he tweeted that out, and based on your comment, it seems you didn’t look at this man and the people he represents and their heartache and pain that may get less intense over time, but will never, ever end, and think, “We’re not doing enough. What more can we do to end this.” Instead, you took it personally as another attack against your beliefs, and shot back. At me, as it were; someone you have met once in a dark basement bar in [location] 10 years ago. When we take something small, like this tweet, and take it so personally that we feel attacked and cornered by it, it brings out the fight or flight survival instinct. One comes out swinging, and it perpetuates the “us vs. them” mentality our society has normalized. In reading the teachings of Jesus, I don’t believe he would embrace that. It goes pretty hard against, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 

And I could swing back here. I could do that daily, fire back at every thing I see, read, or hear that is offensive to me. It actually would become a full-time job if I did. The grammatical errors alone would drive me to psychosis. However, I work hard to listen to what the other person has to say, try and put myself in their experience, and then allow myself to add that knowledge to my understanding. I try – and some days it is harder than others – to make the generous assumption that a person is doing the best they can with what they have. If I do that, it makes my interactions with that person much kinder, more curious, and allows for a dialog where maybe I can learn something, and, if I’m humble enough, perhaps I can pass on some knowledge or guidance as well. 

So, [person], I agree with you that the tweet was purposefully inflammatory. However, when I think of where Senator Murphy is coming from, and my own fear when I send my boys to school in our “statistically safe” neighborhood, I empathize with him. I hope you have a stellar day

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