On the Corner
BY ROBERT DOCTER –
The love of the Babe of Bethlehem within us cannot be locked away. It demands release to all around us. It requires us to confront God with the person we have become–to stand before him and assess ourselves–to view with him the essence of our being and to decide what we want to do about it.
There is no better time to engage in this self-examination than during the season in which we celebrate his birth.
In recent days I have discovered a number of things about me–so this is an exercise in painful self-disclosure.
I have discovered that I have very low tolerance for stupid decision-making. Unfortunately, I have also discovered that I often define stupid decision-making as almost anything with which I personally disagree. Please note–I do not have low tolerance for stupidity. There’s a big difference between the two. “Stupidity” refers to other human beings acting without much intelligence or reason.
As a university professor, I’m in the business of trying to elevate intelligence. I work to increase insight, understanding and reasoned responses. “Stupidity” is a word I try to avoid. It is a label affixed to other humans. I won’t tolerate ad hominem arguments–in myself or in others. I refuse to label people or call them names. I resist casting aspersions on personalities. I will not engage in vitriolic ridicule. I will not practice hate. This does not mean I will run from conflict or that I will remain silent. When given the opportunity, I will attack arguments with whatever measure of rationality I can bring to bear in a given moment.
“Stupid decision-making” focuses on the decision. It refers to an unfortunate response often made in haste, without sufficient information or consultation with knowledgeable people, without adequate cognitive awareness, and in the absence of essential, first hand experience. Bad decision-making fails to examine the consequences of similar decisions made on prior occasions. More often than not, stupid decisions get made when people act out of feelings rather than thinking. Good decisions require thoughtful consideration. Feelings prompt the behavior of infants acting within their own range of maturity. Hopefully, the cerebral cortex of the infant matures. I’ve discovered this is not always the case.
This next discovery of mine grows from the first and is related to it. Sadly, I have also discovered that I am prone to judgmentalism. This, undoubtedly, is not new information for many of you. I’m working on this, and I am winning. I hope you are working on your judgmentalism as well–because I’ve seen a lot of it in recent days.
I see “judgmentalism” as a quick leap to assign a value to another human being. It’s usually a “summary judgment”–an immediate assessment of worth based most often on a single characteristic rather than on total character.
For instance, I tend to use the word “jerk” too often when I’m driving on the freeway. It’s a category I assign to other drivers–usually drivers who drive just like me. It is wrong, morally and intellectually, to assign this kind of label to someone on the basis of a single incident–one particular event. I am not defined by one word. I will avoid doing it to others.
I want to seek after wisdom–as an aid in my decision-making and as a help in my interpersonal relations. It seems to me that “wisdom” synthesizes a number of qualities. I believe the wise person is genuinely authentic–is real–knows who and what they are. This person is able to make important decisions on the basis of strong moral principles as opposed to popular opinion. Loud voices or opinion polls are not the primary contributors to decisions by those with wisdom. This person genuinely cares about “others”–is able to empathize with those who approach with some kind of need. The person with wisdom has a range of experience and a strong measure of insightful, perceptive, intelligence. This person uses these qualities.
My model for wisdom is Christ. As he sought to articulate the true nature of God, he was always at odds with the religious establishment of his day. The Pharisees, with their narrow rigidity, with their fear of change, with their rush to judgment could not tolerate ideas that talked about loving neighbors–and then defining “neighbor” as those who were different. They could not accept his forgiving and loving association with those branded as sinners and charlatans. He challenged the notion that someone born with an infirmity–like blindness–bore the consequences of sins of his parents or himself. When asked by the religious establishment who was responsible for the man’s blindness–himself or his parents–Jesus replied “Neither.” Then he explained, “This happened that the work of God may be displayed.” (Jn 9:2-3) In other words, the infirmity allowed those with Christian love to display that love. Then he made the remarkable disclosure: I am the light of the world.
I grieve for those who bring “difference” to a relationship and are rejected on the same grounds the Pharisees used to reject Christ. Oh Lord, forgive me for any display of pharisaical treatment of others–free my spirit to shower Christian love–help me know my “neighbor” when I meet him or her–give me the courage to be crucified with you.those with Christian love to display that love. Then he made the remarkable disclosure: I am the light of the world.
I grieve for those who bring “difference” to a relationship and are rejected on the same grounds the Pharisees used to reject Christ. Oh Lord, forgive me for any display of pharisaical treatment of others–free my spirit to shower Christian love–help me know my “neighbor” when I meet him or her–give me the courage to be crucified with you.