Posted in: Digidisciple– November 22, 2015
I posted a picture from Instagram to my Facebook feed in response to the recent tragedy in Paris which read “I see humans but no humanity”. It was a short, sharp statement that eloquently captured my thoughts: I looked at the people who undertook the attacks and whilst I recognised them as members of the human species, I couldn’t see their humanity. No one could do what was done on the fateful Friday the thirteenth and even pretend to have an ounce of humanity.
I thought my pithy quote would be universally accepted and thought nothing more of it until I started to receive comments that disagreed with me. People, including my Salvation Army Officer, started to call me out: they saw humanity in the response of the Parisians in the aftermath, openig their homes and doing all they could to aid the survivors. These commentators could see both humans and humanity.
Neither group was wrong: the attackers were human but lack humanity whereas ordinary Parisians easily and eloquently demonstrated their humanity with simple acts of kindness and grace.
Both viewpoints were right.
Edward de Bono is one of my favourite nonfiction writers and hold his work in high regard. You may be familiar with his work on the Six Thinking Hats and/or lateral thinking.
Lateral or parallel thinking works on the basis that multiple points-of-view can all be valid. Edward de Bono summarises this technique in his book “How to have a beautiful mind” …
“Parallel thinking replaces the battle argument with a joint exploration of the subject as all parties think “in parallel” at any moment.”
This idea really challenged me. I saw how imprecise my original statement was … which, for someone who works as a Analyst, was nearly unforgivable. The statement I had used lacked precision and was too ambiguous, giving rise (thankfully) to meaning outwith what I had intended.
I then thought of the recent debacle about Starbucks’ red cups. I thought that, as a result of this debacle, there were some people out there who saw Christians but didn’t see Christ.
Now there may be folks out there who think the whole event was and is justified, that in some way they were being Christlike in standing up for their truth. I get that. It’s just that I can’t see it.
When we see things from another person’s point-of-view we may see our actions differently from what they were initially intended to be. Our actions can so easily be misinterpreted and morphed into something we originally did not intend.
We do not have control over the perceptions of others but we owe it to the Lord whom we serve and represent to be as exact and unambiguous as possible in what we say and do, so that any potential for misinterpretation can be minimised. Our yes should be yes and our no should be no, afterall.
We should also seek out alternate points-of-view as a means of keeping ourselves accountable. Without someone we’ve empowered to keep us grounded, someone who will call us out when we are perceived to deviate from what we initially intended, then we run the very real risk of being received poorly.
We are the only Christ some folks out in the communities we frequent will see. Let’s do all we can to be the best representation we can be.