something is always bigger

As is typical in our family, my spouse and I sat down the other evening to catch the day’s sporting events — bouncing between baseball’s league championship series and the start of the professional basketball season. Truth told, pro basketball doesn’t always keep my attention; it sometimes seems like defense is only played the last ten minutes of the game. But in solely the first six minutes of the season, our eyes were glued to the television. I wish they had not been so glued.

The Celtics were playing the Cavaliers in Cleveland, and not halfway through the first quarter, star free agent pickup, Boston’s Gordon Hayward, went up for a routine alley-oop — a play he’s probably made hundreds of times — and in one of the most grisly injuries to watch unfold, Hayward landed awkwardly, his ankle contorted underneath him, fracturing both his ankle and left tibia.

Happening in front of the opposing team, the Cavaliers’ bench responded in immediate, unprecedented queasiness, scrambling to look away. It was grisly and gruesome indeed… an injury that should be wished upon no one.

Note the immediate wishes from all over the sports spectrum…

For @gordonhayward. Come back stronger!
     — from Steph Curry

God bless you bro @gordonhayward ! help him thru this god!
 — from Paul George

Never like to see that. Best wishes to @gordonhayward
 — from soccer’s Jody Altidore

Praying for my guy @gordonhayward!!! NEVER want to see any of the guys go through anything like that.
 — from DeAndre Jordan

NBA | Heartbreak for #GordonHayward but beautiful to see the NBA Community come together for him. Our thoughts and prayers are with you
— from award-winning broadcaster Benny Bonsu

Lord , Carry Him Now @gordonhayward
— from Dwight Howard

No no no no no no………. praying everything is okay…
— from Jared Sullinger

Gordon and Robyn, our thoughts are with you and your family. All of Jazz Nation sending best wishes for a speedy recovery.
 — from the Utah Jazz, Hayward’s former team

Never want to see that man!#thoughtsandprayers
 — from Zach LaVine

@gordonhayward. Only God has ALL the answers.
— from Shaun Livingston

@gordonhayward prayin for u my brother.
 — from Odell Beckham, Jr.

Prayers to @gordonhayward @celtics hope people will understand better that NOTHINGS guaranteed in the game we love
 — from Bruce Bowen

Wow… that’s horrific… feel awful for Hayward
   — from Jeremy Lin

Can’t even put into words.
Gordon Hayward.
Feeling for you man.
Absolutely gut wrenching.
 — from JJ Watt

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Gordon Hayward. #BiggerThanBasketball
 — from the Cleveland Cavaliers

Absolutely gut wrenching. Never like to see that. Feel awful…
Injury should be wished upon no one. I hope we get that. I pray, too, we can always be graceful, wishing another well, even in opposition, realizing something is always “bigger” — in far more than basketball. I thus also pray our emotion and opposition wouldn’t keep us from extending the wisdom and warmth embedded within such beautiful (and beautifully contagious) grace.

Respectfully…
AR

offended? free speech?

My oldest son is a junior at the University of Florida.

Today, there will be a man speaking on campus who is incredibly controversial. He has repeatedly articulated some shockingly divisive rhetoric. Meet Richard Spencer, president of the National Policy Institute, who promotes white superiority and thus identity politics.

What should the university do?

Spencer tends to attract supporters and protestors who have a perceived increased propensity for violence. Most of the supporters and protestors reportedly will not be associated with the university in any way.

Again, my son is there.

(When we are directly affected — when our friends or family are affected — we tend to be more passionate… less objective… and maybe even less tolerant of different opinion or approach. Which leads to today’s clunkiest sentence: who we love most, who is affected the most, most affects our perspective and response.)

To be clear, Spencer was not invited by the university; his organization rented space on campus, and because UF is a public and not private university, any denial of Spencer speaking would raise a First Amendment issue.

Isn’t that the crux of much of the current conflict?

There is a battle going on in regard to how much free speech we should allow.

Remember that protest, too, is a form of speech.

So… how much free speech should we allow?

… especially when it offends us. To offend is to wholeheartedly disrespect.

The challenge is that “to offend” is also an incredibly vague verb. It’s totally subjective. What’s offensive to some is not necessarily offensive to another. We get to pick and choose what we’re offended by, and we typically don’t have as much patience with another person’s offense, as it’s simply easier to dismiss another’s rationale rather than attempt to sincerely understand why they feel differently.

While it would have been easier for the University of Florida to deny Spencer’s speaking — especially since university president W. Kent Fuchs has soundly denounced Spencer’s rhetoric — the school has instead decided to “lead the way.”

Said Fuchs two days ago: “I urge our campus community to join together, respect one another and promote positive speech, while allowing for differing opinions… It is up to every student, faculty member, staff member, and myself to demonstrate our university values of respect and inclusion in all that we do. We have an opportunity to lead the way.”

I will share that such has not been a popular opinion with a vocal contingent of parents. Several from their understandable bent — no doubt because their sons and daughters are affected — want the university to do more… from shutting Spencer down to calling off class for the day. Note that the school is incurring $500,000 in security costs and bringing in significantly more law enforcement, attempting to be as prepared as possible for any violence.

What I also see is that the University of Florida believes in the totality of education. They want their students to learn to think on their own, preparing them for the world that awaits after these four some years; some of what awaits is not pretty and seems to be getting worse. The school seems clear, no less — as much as they disagree with this divisive antagonist — that they do not need to become an echo chamber, a place where students are only exposed to ideas with which they agree.

Ok, deep breath. Time to allow this to unfold. Time for this parent to say a prayer or two…

For the safety of the students in Gainesville…

For each of us… to join together, respect one another and promote positive speech… while allowing for differing opinions…

Respectfully…
AR

the intellectual lure

We want to know.

From the Undersheriff of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, Kevin McMahill [note: emphasis mine]:

“To date, we have run down well more than a thousand leads in this investigation. While some of it has helped create a better profile into the madness of this suspect, we do not still have a clear motive or reason why

We all want answers. We have looked at everything — literally — to include the suspect’s personal life, any political affiliation, his social behaviors, economic situation…

We’re also aware, of course, that ISIS has repeatedly claimed responsibility, which today, I can tell you, that we have no known nexus to.

In the past, terror attacks or mass murder incidents, motive was made very clear — very clear in most of those cases by a note that was left, by a social media post, by a telephone call that was made, by investigators mining computer data. Today, in our investigation, we don’t have any of that uncovered. I wish we did. We will and are continuing to investigate with great tenacity, and hope to arrive at an answer.”

In other words, we don’t know. We don’t know why the suspect in last week’s shooting did what he did.

We don’t know motive. We don’t know the reason why.

And we aren’t very good at not knowing.

Isn’t that true?

Over the course of recent years, I have observed so many of us struggle with what we don’t know… when we don’t understand why someone would do something we wouldn’t do… when we don’t understand why someone would say something we wouldn’t say…

(Let’s go deeper…)

… when we don’t know why someone would vote for one for whom we wouldn’t vote… when we don’t know why someone would support a cause we wouldn’t support…

We struggle when we don’t know… when we don’t understand another. I think that struggle is very real.

Allow me to insert a parental metaphor here, especially being the parent of one son with special needs among my three. There are so many times as these boys have become men that I had zero clue why they did what they did or said what they said. I did not know.

But as a parent — admittedly making many missteps along the way — I soon learned that it was impossible to always know. It was impossible to always discern the clear motive or reason for their behavior. And after being hit over the head with a few hundred, seemingly divine two-by-fours, I surrendered the right to know. Funny, the more willing I was to surrender my need to know, the more I learned, the more I grew, and the more I was free to love and become a better parent.

The key is resisting the intellectual lure to assign motive in the absence of clarity. I deeply believe that intellect too often gets in the way; it is not (repeat, not) the equivalent of wisdom.

We crave knowing, and therefore, we assume we always can. So in the absence of clarity, we often assign motive or reason when someone does something we wouldn’t do, says something we wouldn’t say, votes how we wouldn’t vote, or supports what we wouldn’t support. In place of humble investigation, patience in the process, and/or prayerful revelation, we assign motive.

As we then fall into that troubling trap, believing we are omniscient enough to assign said motive or reason, we miss out on potential learning. Sometimes we even use the exercise to judge, unfriend, or to love another less.

I admit: not knowing is hard. And when that not knowing comes in conjunction, for example, with the manifestation of evil witnessed last week on the Las Vegas Strip, we search with increased tenacity to understand the why.

We search. We pray. Hopefully, we will one day know.

But sometimes we have to be ok with not.

Respectfully…
AR

one right angle

What’s the right angle?

Seriously.

What’s the right angle to take here? Is there only one?

As the shock-induced fog gives way to the reality that once again, we’re hit smack-dab in the face with the fact that evil exists on this planet, what are we to do? How are we to proceed? What’s the right angle?

Let me first be clear that I am not calling the Vegas shooter “evil.” We don’t know what was in his head or his heart or how mental illness may have played a role; we may never know. But what we do know is that innocent people were murdered. That qualifies as evil to me.

So where do we go with that?

I have quietly observed in recent years how people respond differently to different manifestations of evil — varied examples of when the innocent are killed…

… If it’s a terrorist situation, some immediately demand to call it what it is… “It’s radical Islamic terrorism! What are we going to do?! We need to stop this now!?”… Others say we need to be patient; we need to let the facts unfold. We don’t want to anger an entire people group.

… If it’s one man in his hotel room, shooting at concert goers, some immediately demand to call it what it is… “It’s a man who shouldn’t have a gun in his hands! What are we going to do?! We need to stop this now!”… Still others say we need to be patient; we need to let the facts unfold. We don’t know what laws would be effective in stopping this.

Friends, this is a tough blog. It’s tough because I am well aware that each of us have flirted with at least one of the above responses, and I never intend for any disrespect. I wrestle regularly, so many days, in regard to what is the wisest response.

The reality is we respond to evil differently. While the overwhelming majority of us abhor evil — and wish it didn’t exist on this planet — our individual responses as to how best to extinguish the evil is where the difference lies.

Therein begs the question: is there only one right angle? Is there only one right way to respond?

My sadness has extended beyond the news of Sunday as we see too many people declare only their way is wise. And then in what they most likely, sincerely believe is wisdom, they validate dismissing, mocking, and denigrating the approach of another; sometimes, they denigrate far more than the approach.

Remember the wisdom of Steven R. Covey, in “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” Habit #5 is this: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Noting that communication is arguably the most important skill in life, Covey states: “If you’re like most people, you probably seek first to be understood; you want to get your point across. And in doing so, you may ignore the other person completely… You filter everything you hear through your life experiences, your frame of reference.”

But other frames of reference exist. Other frames of reference are valid. When we ignore other people, we essentially are saying that only “my” frame of reference is valid. And when we ignore the validity of another’s frame of reference, rarely will that other person want to be and think more like us; we may be doing more harm than good.

The key then is to “use empathic listening to genuinely understand a person, which compels them to reciprocate the listening and take an open mind to being influenced by you. This creates an atmosphere of caring, and positive problem solving.”

Friends, I don’t believe it’s any secret with the conflict in this world today, that we need an atmosphere simply capable of positive problem solving. We need an atmosphere capable of addressing the evil that exists and capable of lessening the potential for any murder of the innocent. But as long as we demand that only one right angle exists, we pierce that atmosphere with nothing short of self-inflicting wounds.

I grieve for the families affected by what just happened in Vegas. As said Tuesday, I have trouble wrapping my heart and head around it.

I grieve, too, for how we disrespect each other so much thereafter. I can’t wrap my heart and head around that one either.

Grief is real. People respond differently. Lord help us in creating an atmosphere in which positive problem solving is simply capable.

Respectfully…
AR

what happened in vegas

How many must die before we finally get it?
How long before we realize our role in this toxic environment?
How many? How long?

It’s hard for me to wrap my brain and my heart around what just happened in Vegas. A man decides to take target practice on thousands of innocent targets. Those persons did nothing to him. But he was irrational — maybe “mad as hell” and “not going to take this anymore.” And so for whatever reason, he felt justified treating others in a heartless, horrific way. He justified treating others awfully.

It won’t be long before the calls for gun control and increased security measures fill up the airwaves. Sure, let’s have those conversations.

But let us not have them before we deal with the “how many” and “how long.” Let us not have any more proposals until we deal with a bigger bottom line. And, recognizing that what we’re about to wrestle with is both bold and uncomfortable, let us realize how we have contributed to this conflict. Let us recognize how we have contributed to treating others awfully.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to recognize the deterioration of our public and personal rhetoric. We have justified calling others the worst. Allow me a mere few examples, heard in recent weeks (please excuse my vulgarity; these are direct quotes, with asterisks strategically positioned by the Intramuralist):

“Such an a**hole! … all thieves! … FU**TARD LIAR! … Racist pigs — each and every one of them! …”

Each of the above was said by a person considered to be a college-educated, pretty intelligent person. And yet, each justifies such callous derogation. And yet again, the insult list goes on.

Do we need more gun control? Maybe.

Do we need increased security measures? Maybe.

But more than any new practice or policy, we need the people of this country to quit believing they can scream insults at one another and believe nothing bad is going to happen — that no one will act irrationally and take it too far.

If we keep believing we can scream and shout and use such awful terms to describe our fellow men and women — who are created and loved by the great big God of the universe just like us — then we have had an active role in taking it too far. We have contributed to the toxic, non-God-honoring environment that too frequently exists. We have contributed to the deterioration of authentic community; we should be making it better — not worse. Let me be clear: only loving the likeminded, “like-looking” or “like-something” is making it worse.

In Vegas, current estimates are that at least 59 people died and 500+ more were injured. Details about the shooter and the crime scene are still forthcoming.

No doubt, because our horror is massive and our shock still reigns, many will call for an immediate solution so that we never feel such horror again — perhaps some new policy enactment. Still more will find whatever this shooter was associated with and declare that “those people” (whoever those people are) need to be eliminated.

The Intramuralist suggests we start with something a little more personal and uncomfortable. Let us be the change we want to see. Let us stop justifying the awful rhetoric. Let us stop screaming and unfriending and focusing on what we don’t have in common.

Yesterday, as I walked into the fitness room for my daily, morning routine, as usual, the cleaning crew also arrived bright and early. I motioned to the middle-aged man I see most Mondays. He is typically quiet and shy, never wanting to disturb me or interrupt my routine. 

I meekly asked, “Did you see the news this morning?”

The respectful gentleman, responded mostly in hand motions, acknowledging that his English fluency was minimal, but he had heard about the tragedy in Las Vegas. I then asked if he wanted to come watch the news with me in the workout room, inviting him in.

We turned on the news… and stood there… still… together. After a few minutes, he pointed to his forearm, showing me the goosebumps from his sadness and shock. I pointed to mine, too.

“Sad,” he said.

“Yes,” I agreed.

We looked at each other — and then hugged each other.

“What’s your name?” I then asked.

“Pablo,” he said.

“Nice to meet you, Pablo.”

America, we are one. Any immediate solution needs to deal with that bigger bottom line… meaning we realize more what we do have in common than what we don’t… and stop justifying treating any others awfully.

Respectfully… painfully, too…
AR

a fictional, unconventional, poignant conversation

Man #1: “Excuse me, sir. Is this seat taken?”

Man #2: “No.”

(#1 nods. Sits. Across the table from #2. Neither were expecting to be here together. Not sure if someone planned this meeting or not. It’s a little uncomfortable. Hence, several awkward minutes of silence pass, until the two realize they’re the only ones at the table. #2 initiates the conversation…)

#2: [subtly but warmly] “I haven’t seen you lately. Busy?”

#1: [also subtly] “Yeah, not with the usual, but yeah, busy. You?”

#2: “Yeah, trying a couple new things. Not sure if it will work or not, but trying. How about you? I heard you were looking for work. How’s it going?

#1: “Frustrating, but ok. I quit last spring, but rumor had it they were going to get rid of me anyway. Looking for job isn’t easy. Everyone has all these preconceived notions about you, regardless of resume.”

#2: “So true, man. I thought I did pretty well in my last job. We did some good stuff out in Denver. But people still said I wasn’t good enough — not the right skill set or something.”

#1: “You think they were telling you the truth? … why you got canned?”

#2: “Maybe. I mean, I think everything happens for a reason, so that’s enough for me. I also know that some things are just a game. Life’s more important than that.”

#1: “You can say that again.”

(Another few minutes of a little less awkward silence commence, this time with heads bowed, somber faces, not looking at each other but each pondering, separately but together… #1 initiates conversation this time…)

#1: “Hey… you think all those people — the zillions who call you names, flip you off, judge you, all that other vulgar crud — you think they understand you?”

#2: “No. Not at all. I guess I just figure other people’s behavior is out of my control. My job isn’t to play to the audience, but to instead be who God calls me to be, say what he wants me to say, do what he wants me to do.”

#1: “You always do that?”

#2: “Are you kidding? No way. I am totally, 100% imperfect, you know.”

#1: “Yeah, I heard that.” (…they share a sincere chuckle, looking briefly eye-to-eye…)

#2: “What about you? Do you think you’re doing what you’re called to do?”

#1: “I think so. But it’s hard. It’s hard when people think I want to spit in the faces of our veterans or have no respect for any other race. Heck, my biggest fans don’t always get that.”

#2: “Mine either. Sometimes they praise me, when it’s not praising me that I strive for. I’d really rather they praised God instead of me. I think we too often worship people and things other than God.”

#1: “Agreed. I’ve said before publicly that I believe God guides me through everyday. We’re all equal in God’s eyes, but I feel like my brothers and sisters of color are still sometimes oppressed. I want our country to talk about that — to do something! I’m exhausted by the multiple examples of unfair treatment and disrespect I’ve seen.”

#2: “That’s really hard. I’m sorry, man.”

#1: “Me, too.”

(… silence again ensues, but this time, it’s not so awkward… the two recognize some sort of greater connection…)

#2: “Hey, you mind if I ask you a question?”

#1: “Sure.”

#2: “Why do you kneel?”

#1: (… with a slight smile and affirming nod…) “Good question. I’m just trying to bring attention to what I care about. You?”

#2: “Same.”

#1: “Do you, well, do you ever wish you would have picked a different way to do it?”

#2: “Sometimes. Sometimes it seems way bigger than me. People have agendas and jump on bandwagons. Then the politicians get in the way, usually trying to somehow use my actions for their benefit. Then more join in and get rude and nasty, and for some reason think it’s totally ok to judge people who don’t think like them.”

#1: “Isn’t that the truth! Don’t they realize that we’re fighting for respect for all people?”

#2: “True. [slight pause] How ‘bout another question — although a little more personal, if you’re ok with it?”

#1: “Of course.”

#2: [humbly] “I know you grew up in the church, went to church through college, and often still talk about God and Jesus publicly. You wish to honor him?”

#1: “Absolutely, brother!”

#2: “Would you mind then if we took a knee here together, privately? … recognizing that life is tough on this planet, yet we are each loved by God, regardless of our imperfections?”

#1: “Let’s do it!”

(… and with that the two men reverentially kneel… another few minutes of silence pass, but no awkwardness whatsoever now… the two slowly stand, stretch a bit, grasping the sobriety of the moment. They realize their time together has come to an end…)

#2: “Hey, man. I appreciate this. Even in our differences, I see we have more in common.”

#1: “I wish all people could see that — both those who cheer and jeer. Everyone deserves to be treated fairly and respectfully.”

#2: “Amen, bro! Prayer helps us see that — bowing to someone bigger than we.”

#1: “Submission to a God who created and thus loves us is perhaps most unifying. We need to change some things around here!”

#2: “Yes, we do. Hey, what’d you say your name was again?”

#1: “Colin. Colin with a ‘C.’ ”

#2: “Hey, Colin. I’m Tim. Nice to meet you. Thanks for coming to the table today.”

#1: “You, too, Tim. Maybe more will join us.”

Respectfully…
AR

the kneeler

Last week the president of Black Lives Matter New York, Hank Newsome, and his supporters came face-to-face with Pres. Trump supporters at a very vocal rally in Washington, D.C. Newsome’s expectation was “to come down here with my fist in the air in a very militant way, exchange insults, maybe some dirty looks, or who knows what.”

But a funny thing happened after Newsome was spontaneously welcomed onto the stage and invited to speak. He and the audience found places where they agree. If one watches the now-gone-viral, powerful video, agreement was specifically found on the assertions that:

(1) Black lives matter.
(2) All lives matter.
(3) We need justice when a black life is unfairly lost. And…
(4) If we really want America great, we do it together.

In other words, when the approach was altered, agreement was found. Our approach often impedes understanding.

Introducing exhibit #1… the kneeler.

I ask first, no less, that we remember the circle metaphor… If we are all standing in a circle staring at the same object in the middle, there are a minimum of 360° to look at the exact same thing. From 360 angles, it will look and feel differently. And… because we each have an unobstructed view, we will confidently assume we have the absolute, only correct perspective… even when we are looking differently at (I repeat) the exact same thing. Hence, the Intramuralist continues to contend that this is not solely a two-sided issue. I also contend that because of the chosen approach, there is minimal understanding; people are talking past each other.

Note the explanation of a friend of a friend, Martin Carbaugh: “As I see things, the two sides are talking past each other. The kneelers are kneeling to bring attention to racism and unjust police actions against African Americans. Many just want to get a national conversation started. In their hearts, they aren’t protesting our military.

Those so frustrated by this see the American flag and our National Anthem as unifying symbols of our country that should be honored and respected because of the countless lives that have been sacrificed to give us the freedoms we have today. They see the kneeling protests akin to spitting in the faces of returning veterans from war.

Where I come down is that what the kneelers are protesting, I can agree we should have an open honest conversation about, but the way they are protesting is not an effective way to get the nation you want to converse with to listen to you. It is offensive to those who have served our nation in war. It is also offensive to the vast majority of police officers who serve and protect with honor.

The protesters see anyone who doesn’t like their method of protest as not agreeing with what they are protesting when in reality most just disagree with how they are protesting. On the other side, those who don’t like the protests assume the protesters are unpatriotic, military haters when in reality a majority of the protesters just want something done about unjust police shootings.

This is my take. My advice to the protesters is to find a way to get your point across without offending so many folks. I mean, if I really want to get attention and have the country listen, it is best if I don’t offend you in the process. For those offended, try and understand those protesting may not be doing it the right way at all but they may have something we need to chat about and do something about.”

I admit… I still have more questions than answers… did this initially start as a protest or pout, since Colin Kaepernick had just been benched by his team? … why did Pres. Trump feel he needed to get involved?… were the athletes this past weekend standing more for Colin Kaepernick or against Donald Trump? … and why does this all have to happen during the National Anthem? 

But perhaps the best question — and not an easy one, but maybe the one most necessary to answer — is: when will people quit talking past each other?

As Hank Newsome shared after speaking with the seemingly un-likeminded, “When I spoke truths, they agreed. I feel like we made progress. I feel like two sides that never listen to each other actually made progress today…”

Maybe progress starts with changing our approach… maybe it starts by inviting the un-likeminded onto our stage, inviting them to speak, and actually listening to what they have to say.

Respectfully…
AR

a key to racial reconciliation

Let me invite you in today to join a tough but honest conversation, a place where you are safe, honored, and respected. Your opinion is welcome. And it will be listened to in its entirety. Please don’t shout at me, though, because when you shout, you’re hard to hear. I want to have authentic, sincere dialogue. My goal is not to prove any point. My goal is to journey together… learning, growing, and together working to solve some of these tough problems, facing what plagues us head on.

One of the problems that continues to plague us is the seemingly increasing, intense division between black and white… the racial impetus… that so many have fed from so many varied angles… knowingly or unknowingly. There’s a wall that has stood between far too many primarily because of the color of their skin. I shake my head.

I shake my head because we are all created equally, regardless of demographic. Even with that absolute, constitutionally-promoted truth, however, the challenge remains that we still often fuel and feel that division. We feel divided. We too often feel divided due to the color of our skin.

That grieves me.

All men, women, children, etc. deserve to feel loved and respected. But we withhold love. We withhold respect. Many justify withholding love and respect due to racial differences — and — due to how some choose to articulate their opinion about our racial differences.

For months I have pondered why this has intensified. For months I have observed the masses who declare that only one “side” needs to start loving and respecting the other more. People are out there pounding the pavement… protesting… declaring in their indigenous way that they deserve to be loved and respected. Yes, they do. Yet so many in their verbal and nonverbal protests, demanding to be respected, intentionally or not, consequently omit all others who deserve our love and respect. This lack of awareness — that you can’t fight hate with hate, you can’t fight bullying with bullying, and you can’t fight for respect with disrespect — is killing our conversations that have the potential to lead to solution.

Let me go a little deeper…

Here is where — killing us even more — the omission of God from society is hurting us. It’s impairing us and even our intelligence far more than we may know or be willing to admit. Let me give you second sentence.

So many people want to have conversations about what’s happening on the planet with the absence of God’s wisdom and role from the discussion. They won’t or don’t want to talk about God or acknowledge him, recognizing that as the creator of this planet and the creator of us, he may hold the key to figuring some of this big stuff out. How can we continue to have these grandeur conversations about these tough subjects with the full omission of God? It makes so little sense to me… it also continues to advance the idea that self-reliance is often our greatest sin.

God knows more than we do. He created us. We love what we create. And therefore, if God created and therefore loves us, shouldn’t we humbly find a way to make him part of the equation?

Here on Earth we spend all this stinkin’ time railing on one another. We insult. We impede. We intimidate and point all sorts of fingers. Friends, do you realize what we are doing?

We are insulting and pointing fingers at those who are also created and loved by God.

My a-ha these past few months is that I don’t think we see others as loved and created by God, just like we are. After all, why would we justify treating another so poorly? … why would we look down on them so much? … why would we say that only they need to love and respect another more?

It thus begs the question… How would it change our conversation in regard to racial reconciliation if we could see both black and white as equally created and loved by God?

Wouldn’t you treat someone loved and created by God differently? Wouldn’t you treat them with increased honor and respect?

God loves us because he created us, but our omission of him from the conversation is killing us and allowing for all sorts of judgment and disrespect. It’s throwing otherwise intelligent people off track, allowing judgment to seep deeply into their thinking.

Want to instead be part of the solution?

Don’t assume for a moment that the Intramuralist has all the answers — not even close. But I believe we could start by refusing to align with a “side” and stop pointing fingers at another. Recognize first and foremost that each of us is created and loved by God.

Oh, how that would change our conversation…

Respectfully… always…
AR

{Photo by Zac Ong on Unsplash}

neighbor? enemy? or what?

Recently I was in a situation in which someone who has not known one of my sons very long, identified him in an educational document as somewhat of a “class clown.” While aspects of the description were not without merit, I respectfully requested that we alter the document.

“I don’t disagree with the behaviors you describe,” I asserted. “The challenge is the label. Once we put a label on something, it sticks. And then that’s how we tend to see and treat the person always thereafter.”

Thankfully, in the educational setting, everyone in the room respectfully recognized the potential pitfall… If we identify a person as “_________ ,” they will forever be viewed as “_________.”

Fill in the blank with whatever word you wish — positive or negative…

Friend or foe… genius or jerk. Labels stick.

One label I’ve heard from many as of late — perhaps due to the volatility of the current political climate — is the identification of another as our “enemy.” Socially, relationally, politically, you-name-it. We disagree… someone gets hurt… an initiative is obstructed… and our political leaders unfortunately then encourage the mass labeling.

The potential pitfall is that if we can get the “enemy” label to stick, then we can treat the person differently. We can justify it. We can even think lesser of that person — and then actually get lured into the idea that such is a wise thing to do. At that point it becomes completely acceptable to ignore another’s entire analysis or perspective… They are the enemy, after all. They are not deserving of our respect or consideration.

Who respects their enemy?

If persons are identified as the enemy, then they are certainly not our neighbor, because no way would we live anywhere close to them. And if they are not our neighbor, guess what? We don’t have to love them. We don’t have to like them. We don’t have to even try. It’s only our neighbor we’re universally called to love… right?

…“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself”…

Love your neighbor as yourself… the Intramuralist sees such as a pretty profound concept… I mean, I do love myself, and I’m pretty hip on my family and friends. But my neighbor? That’s more of a reach. I suppose I love most of them.

But notice how we have minimized the profoundness of loving our neighbor as ourselves because we’ve curtailed who can actually be considered in the neighbor category. We have made the imperative easier. Once we identify another as the enemy, we can justify treating them however is easiest and most convenient for us… No need to work through the tough stuff with this one… no need to pursue relationship or reconciliation… no need to give any validity to any of his perspective… nope… he’s the enemy.

For years I’ve led a study encouraging attenders to seek the greatest wisdom. One exercise repeatedly practiced is based on the timeless tale of the Good Samaritan. As has been shared for centuries in all sorts of circles, a traveling man is attacked, beaten, robbed, and left for dead. Multiple persons walk by, notice him but intentionally avoid him; obviously, they don’t see the injured man as their “neighbor.” Since they have labeled him as something lesser, there exists no need to help.

Along comes the Good Samaritan — an ethnicity at the time which was despised by pharisaic leaders. The Samaritan gave the injured man first aid, disinfected and bandaged his wounds. He even lifted the man onto his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. Still, he paid the innkeeper for the injured man’s stay.

The Good Samaritan knew who his neighbor was. He never minimized it. He never allowed any belief, behavior, ethnicity, income, political or social standing to alter his awareness of who his neighbor was. He never confused his neighbor with the enemy.

In our study, we thus asked of one another:
“Who would be the person on the side of the road hardest for you to help?”
“Who have we labeled as our enemy?”
And “who have we justified loving less?”

Fill in the blank with whomever you wish. My suggestion is we first learn better who is our neighbor.

Respectfully…
AR

{Gleren Meneghin on Unsplash}

if they would only realize…

Sometimes it’s hard to know what to write about. I say that not because the Intramuralist has no things to say — more because as I survey the status of current events, some are so tough for understandably many to engage in actual, respectful dialogue. Regardless of the submission of any respectfully-articulated perspective — as is this blog’s promise — the chances of someone screaming back at me or pointing fingers or maybe even throwing something at their computer screen seems to have exponentially risen.

The reality, no less, is that through this online outlet, I can’t hear any screaming nor does any creative projectile damage anything other than what’s in the thrower’s possession. Hence, what I candidly observe is the frequency which with we point fingers. Allow me to rephrase…

We are really good at calling out other people.

Problem after problem… conflict after conflict… so often we strongly suggest the solution rests solely in the change of someone else. So often we promote the only cure as one in which only others must change what they think, say and do. We believe in some grand panacea for all current ills that conveniently absolves self.

“I/me/my/myself,” my husband and I often say. When first married years ago, we began repeating that phrase frequently, reminding one another that it’s our innate, first inkling to articulate a solution or perspective that is “all about me” — that if there’s something wrong, the problem rests not with “me” but with “you.” Sometimes we don’t even realize we’re doing it; maybe we unknowingly mask the challenge to be about someone else.

But in our “I/me/my/myself” mindset, we get lured into believing that the problem rests entirely due to the beliefs or behavior of the other. If that other would only change, then the problem would not exist.

We absolve ourselves of the responsibility to change how we believe or behave.

I have seen this sincere, so-easily-adopted lure creep into so many of our perspectives… and yes, these are hard…

If those others would only realize they are bigots…
If those others would only realize they are privileged…
If those others would only realize they are intolerant…

In other words, if “those others” would only change. Not me, mind you… them. Solely them.

I have absolved myself from any contribution to the unhealthiness. We have absolved the “my” — my people, my party, my behavior, my way of thinking.

Maybe I’m wrong, but my strong sense is that one of the reasons so many topics are so tough to talk about respectfully is because we’re too busy pointing fingers at someone else; we’re so focused pointing out how another has to change how they believe or behave.

What if we instead asked ourselves…

Where have I been rude?
Where have I been mean?
Where have I been unwilling to listen?
Where have I been intolerant or demanding?
And where have I chastised or screamed at another?



Few want to change how they believe or behave when another is chastising or screaming at them. If we want to solve some of these tough topics, perhaps we instead start by stopping this illogical idea that it’s wise to absolve self and only call out the wrongfulness of another. Let us first wrestle with the wrongfulness within ourselves.

Today my husband and I celebrate 23 years of marriage. As most who’ve been married that long will share, there have been moments of both terrific and taxing (some of which I’ve been serendipitously grateful that occurred long before the existence of social media). But we made a commitment to do this… to work through things… to solve problems… and to grow. We committed to doing life together in sickness and in health — in the healthy and unhealthiness. Step one means omitting the emphasis on “I/me/my/myself,” asking not how my spouse must change, but rather, how must I.

Respectfully…
AR

 

{Photo by Felix Russell-Saw on Unsplash}