We all tell stories. We tell stories that show ourselves in a positive light. We tell stories that have enemies that don’t looks so good.
It’s a pretty human thing to do. We want to be lifted up and too often we think the only way to do that is by tearing down someone else – preferably an anonymous someone else, or a person who represents a whole group of people.
Broad statements about groups are common. Often they end up being racist or sexist or something else-ist.
We do this because there is always some shred of truth somewhere in these statements. The problem usually lies in the fact that the shred of truth gets really inflated and abused. Often the shred of truth was about one particular person that we may have encountered and had a bad experience with and all of a sudden that one person now represents all people like that person – or so we like to believe. It makes us feel better about ourselves – “at least we aren’t like them!”
What is it about feeling better by putting someone else, or a whole group of people, down? I don’t get it. When we put others down, we aren’t being raised up. We are still where we were before. No put down ever raised someone up. All it does is dig a hole for the group you put down. And little do we realize it, but we are digging our own hole too – making it harder for us to raise up. We go down with those we dehumanize.
We find it easy to blame the poor for their situation and problems. “If only they worked harder, they wouldn’t be in that situation.”
We blame black people for being arrested or killed by a police officer. “If only they followed the law and obeyed the officer, they wouldn’t have gotten shot.”
We blame women for rape. “If only she hadn’t worn that dress.”
We blame young people for their debt. “If only they were responsible with money.”
We blame old people for their lack of understanding about technology. “If only they would actually listen.”
We blame the other party for the state of the nation and what is to come if they get elected. “If only they would see how right we are!”
We blame rich people for greed. “If only they would share their wealth.”
We are really good at blaming people. “Those” people are the ones with the problems, not us! We tell ourselves that we have our act together.
Drugs, domestic violence, murder, greed, passive agressiveness, manipulation, abuse, and more all happen in those communities – but never in my own community. Or when it does, there is always an excuse for it, or a way to rationalize it away, or to just ignore it as if it didn’t happen because it is inconvenient.
If only the answer were just so easy as we like to think they are. But they aren’t. People are complicated and messy. No amount of “if only’s” will ever solve the problems we face. But you know what will help? Moving away from all of this. Getting to know actual people, hearing their story, humanizing their situation, and stop trying to blame or solve other people’s problems. You know what else helps – looking in the mirror and seeing your own problems and how broken you are. And when we can admit our own brokenness, we can start to see others as broken too – not to judge them – but to accompany them. When we can start to see the grace and mercy we receive, we can start to offer it to others too. When we can start to see that karma doesn’t help anyone, let alone ourselves, we can put that aside when we deal with others too. When we start to see the image of God that has been given to us, then our eyes are clear enough to see it in others too. And when that happens, the world changes. Not because it has changed, but because we have been changed.