Friday, September 28, 2012

See the Other as You Want to Be Seen

There are the safe people, the good people, honorable, trustworthy and noble; that would be "us."  And then there is everyone else.  The "other."  And we often view the "other" as possessing none of those same qualities.  The "other" easily can become the enemy.

Whether individually or collectively as a nation people upon encountering someone "other than" themselves often look downward at them rather than eye to eye.  Someone of a different color moves into the established family neighborhood and they are often viewed with suspicion before even meeting anyone.  The person who doesn't speak our language is told to learn English and abandon his native tongue; his language is "other" than ours and obviously inferior.     I look down on the guy that wears his pants halfway down his butt; I doubt his mother has a " My Son is an Honor Roll Student" bumpersticker.  Notice I mention his mother, because I doubt his father is around.  The young man is the "other."

George Byron Koch, in a paper, "The Ministry of Reconciliation," illustrates how profoundly this lens can affect our viewing of others.

Several years ago my brother was staying in a small village in Ireland.  He asked in the local pub about a similar small  village a mere 6 miles away that he was considering visiting.  He was told sharply that the village he was in had nothing to do with the other village, would not speak to anyone there--ever--and that they had no information to share with him about that village.  The anger and distrust in their voices were obvious.  The nearby village was "other," the enemy.
Nonplussed he asked about the reasons for their anger and distrust.
They said, " In 1066 when William the Conqueror came through Ireland he attacked that village first.  They didn't send anyone here to warn us that he was coming."
So "they" couldn't be trusted.  "They" were a danger.  And for nearly a thousand years "they" had remained "other," the enemy.  

At first glance this seems so appalling.  How could "they" be so narrow-minded and short-sighted?  But a look in the mirror silences my judgment.  I, too, tend to look through the same lens of distrust and suspicion. Different target, same lens.  

We all are created in the image of God and, therefore, each of us  and each of "them" are image-bearers of God.  I have to make a conscious effort not see "them" as "other" but as my brother and sister.  I need to step down off my ladder of superiority and look eye to eye at this "other " person.  

To rid myself of that downward look I need to look upward and seek God's grace to do so.  Sixty two years of will power alone hasn't worked so far. 

What a beautiful world it would be if we all could look at the "other" through the same lens that we would want the "other" to view us.


Bongo said...

can you imagine how radically the world would change if we could all look at the other as if they are us?????
Yup if we could all look through the same lens and see that person in front of us the same as everyone else..
whoa that was some sentence...anyway..i know what i mean...grrrrrrr ..As always.......

Steve said...

I'm glad you mean what you know; I immediately meant what you knew. :>)

Tim said...

It boils down to one's agenda in relationships of any kind. If your goal is to be kind and compassionate and open minded, you won't look down at others so much. If your agenda is a (unhealty) selfish one, it seems natural that one would divide people into groups of us and them. The "us" in that situation would be the ones who promote your agenda. IMHO

Steve said...

Tim, I think that regardless of intention that tendency, that propensity resides within all of us.