Humility – If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it.

Every once in a while during some online interaction, I find myself pounding my head on my keyboard in frustration and asking myself, “Why bother?” The frustration is usually born out of a conversation about a political or theological tweet or update, when it becomes clear to me that some folks are more interested in winning battles than building community. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for vigorous and passionate debate, and I am often complicit in exacerbating unhealthy dialogue, but too often it seems that we slip into modes of communication that seem to say that the only way I can be built up is for you to be torn down.

Honestly, sometimes building community just gets too damn hard and I want to quit. It’s not worth my time, my energy or my effort. After all, I could be doing so many other things that would be so much more worthwhile. And then I remember this great exchange from the movie, A League of Their Own when star player, Dottie Hinson (Geena Davis), wants to quit the team and she is challenged by manager, Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks), to ask herself, “Why?”

Jimmy Dugan: Shit, Dottie, if you want to go back to Oregon and make a hundred babies, great, I’m in no position to tell anyone how to live. But sneaking out like this, quitting, you’ll regret it for the rest of your life. Baseball is what gets inside you. It’s what lights you up, you can’t deny that.

Dottie Hinson: It just got too hard.

Jimmy Dugan: It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard . . .is what makes it great.

This exchange could be about so many aspects of faith: graciousness, hospitality, service etc., but during this election season, when opinions are flying around like the swarming evil monkeys from the Wizard of Oz, I think “humility” is the order of the day.

Humility is supposed to be hard.

If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it.

The hard . . . is what makes it great.

I know that some of you are thinking to yourself, “Well, if you put your opinions and ideas out there, you deserve what you get.” or even “Well, if someone else brings the snark and ‘tude, I am going return it two-fold!” Honestly, I think both response are too easy and are exactly what is hoped for by those who make their living and garner power by inciting and sustaining destructive conflict. Sure, when it comes to discussions about politics or theology, we can always expect that some people will choose a path of disrepect and dehumanization, but that does not mean it is an acceptable way of being community. I doubt that the nastiness with which our society is flavored these days is much different than at other moments in history, but during this moment, our collective responses must be greater than apathy or reciprocation.

Instead, why not turn the idea that, “in order to build up who I am, another person must be torn down” on it’s ass? Jesus offers us an excruciating and easily ignored example of this as told to the church in Philippi as they too struggled with humility in their community.

Philippians 2:1-8

 2:1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same attitude of mind Christ Jesus had:

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.And being found in appearance as a human being,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

So, here is what I’m going to do. I’m going to rally up and lift my head up from my keyboard and keep trying. When I’m tempted to respond to a friend or stranger with wonderfully snarky, but not at all helpful, words, I will do my best to resist. And when I lose focus and start dishing out passive-aggressive or blatantly mean-spirited responses hoping to hammer my enemy into ideological submission, I will seek forgiveness and repent. But above all, I will fight the urge to win at all costs and strive to be like Christ risking the death of even my own victory in order to experience the new life of our community.

Who’s with me?

My Apology to Justin Bieber, Sarah Palin, A-Rod and My Mom

[Photo: hekatekris]

Oh it feels so good, so justified, so deserved . . . and in the end harmless.

“Sarah, you are an idiot!”

“A-Rod, you are overrated and the YANKEES SUCK!”

“Oh Justin, oh Justin, you just make me sad for the ears of an entire generation.”

Yep, I love a well-placed jab, a cutting comment or a stinging dig as much as the next person.  And if it could be me that launches that one delectable piece of snark, then all the better.  What does it matter? These people are in the public eye, so they should expect it.  Heck, they may have even done things that deserve strong scorn and serious critique, so they may even deserve it.

Yes, public figures are public figures and it’s fair to say that they should expect it when they put themselves out there: the barbs, the ridicule, the name-calling, but I have a deep belief that for the good of society, we should not accept this behavior as a given . . . no matter who they are directed at.

I can hear my mother’s gentle reprimand echoing as I type this. Throughout my life whenever her children would talk bad about someone with undue toxicity.  Be it politics, sports or pop culture, she would say, “You know, even ______ has a mother who loves him.”  Eyes would roll and we would go on our way, but we would stop.

What my mother was teaching us was that no matter the person, the action or the ideology EVERYONE, known or unknown, deserves to be seen as a human being: in my tradition, a child of God beautifully and wonderfully made.  We do not have to approve of someone’s actions, politics or perspective, but all of God’s children deserve to be seen as complex beings and treated with dignity.

Now am not talking about being soft or silent in the face of injustice or giving up the nuances of playful banter.  What I am saying is that we need to engage in our challenges and critiques with an eye towards building up the community to which we are connected be it a church, family or country and do so without resorting to tearing one another down in the process.

History has seen great leaders rise up over and over again against injustice without having to resort to playground bullying and name-calling and we have seen justice prevail.  In Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech he said,

“Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time — the need for mankind [sic] to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression.”

These words are not just about the physical violence that has one human destroying the body of another, but also the violent words that we use to crush the spirit of our enemies.  Tearing one another down, whether in body or spirit, denies the dignity and life that God bestows upon all of humanity . . . all humanity.

We cannot allow this behavior to live on our children.  While there will always be a level of nastiness in public discourse, that does not mean that we have to put up with it. In fact, if we do not continue to stand against this type of interaction, things will only get worse and we will spiral downward becoming a people who only knows our worth by what side of the violence we find ourselves.

We must stay strong and persevere in this regard.  To borrow another quote from MLK,

“The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice. It bends towards justice, but here is the thing: it does not bend on its own. It bends because each of us in our own ways put our hand on that arc and we bend it in the direction of justice . . .”

So to everyone to whom I have directed the nasty comment, demeaning barb or just play mean words: Sarah, Justin, A-Rod and for those times that I rolled my eyes, my mom . . . I am sorry.

I will try to play my part in in placing my hand on the arc of justice, bending it with words and actions of non-violence and dignity.

I hope you will join me.

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