limiting honor

I believe in promoting what is good and true and right. I believe most of us wish to promote what is good and true and right. I also believe all of us at some time fail in that promotion.

In this contentious culture, it seems we are falling a little more prey. It’s a culture that’s quick to write people off, encouraging to dehumanize one who has hurt you, and a society which justifies putting limits on honor and grace.

To be humbly but boldly clear, that is not how the Intramuralist thinks. I do not believe any of the above is good nor true nor right.

I’m reminded of a profound, fantastic story Steven Covey shares in his enduring classic, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”… 

“I remember a mini-paradigm shift I experienced one Sunday morning on a subway in New York. People were sitting quietly — some reading newspapers, some lost in thought, some resting with their eyes closed. It was a calm, peaceful scene.

Then suddenly, a man and his children entered the subway car. The children were so loud and rambunctious that instantly the whole climate changed.

The man sat down next to me and closed his eyes, apparently oblivious to the situation. The children were yelling back and forth, throwing things, even grabbing people’s papers. It was very disturbing. And yet, the man sitting next to me did nothing. 

It was difficult not to feel irritated. I could not believe that he could be so insensitive as to let his children run wild like that and do nothing about it, taking no responsibility at all. It was easy to see that everyone else on the subway felt irritated, too. So finally, with what I felt like was unusual patience and restraint, I turned to him and said, ‘Sir, your children are really disturbing a lot of people. I wonder if you couldn’t control them a little more?’”

Allow me to briefly interrupt. Covey was bothered. He was irritated. No doubt he was not alone in that irritation. He actually firmly believed he was being incredibly patient and virtuous by not lashing out, by not asking the man to do something sooner. Covey also believed — and this is key — that his perspective — because he witnessed it with his own eyes — was absolutely, wholeheartedly enough to determine exactly what should be done in the situation. After all, Covey was there.

Listen then to the rest of Covey’s interaction…

“The man lifted his gaze as if to come to a consciousness of the situation for the first time and said softly, ‘Oh, you’re right. I guess I should do something about it. We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don’t know what to think, and I guess they don’t know how to handle it either.’

Can you imagine what I felt at that moment? My paradigm shifted. Suddenly I saw things differently, and because I saw differently, I thought differently, I felt differently, I behaved differently. My irritation vanished. I didn’t have to worry about controlling my attitude or my behavior; my heart was filled with the man’s pain. Feelings of sympathy and compassion flowed freely. ‘Your wife just died? Oh I’m so sorry! Can you tell me about it? What can I do to help?’ Everything changed in an instant.” 

Highly effective people honor others. Wise people honor others. They are generous with their grace. They are intentional in learning the stories of another in order to freely offer that honor and grace.

They also respect the backstory and perspective that is different than their own. They take time to esteem another by being intentional in their effort to understand those stories and perspectives — and… to restrain themselves. But as Covey profoundly unveils, the restraint is not in regard to withholding a declaration of judgment. The restraint is recognizing that the offering of judgment and vengeance was never their role to begin with.

So as we wish to promote what is good and true and right, I am left wondering… 

Is it ever wise to put limits on honor and grace?

And if I believe it is, is that more about what’s proper to do? Or about justifying my own irritation?