If you are a people person I’m sure life can seem pointless at times. If your tendency is to think of others before yourself I suspect you have days where you wish you could just stay at home. You’re constantly hoping for the ideal, seeing the best in people only to be let down. Whether you call it serving, giving back, or involved in your community I was raised that these things are important and almost second nature. A very vivid memory for me as a child was a night my father took the 3 of us (me and my two brothers) grocery shopping. This was odd because my father rarely went grocery shopping without my mom, and he never went grocery shopping with just us. The oddness of the situation was quickly surpassed by joy and excitement when my dad looked at us and said “pick whatever you guys want.” Now to those of you that were “fortunate” enough to have this scenario happen regularly this was equivalent to a surprise no school day for us. We were so excited walking down each isle picking nothing that had nutrients and everything that had a high sugar content. We ended up with 3 overflowing carts and made our way to the checkout. After loading the bags into our family Dodge Caravan we started to drive home. It didn’t take us long to realize we weren’t driving to our house, and before we knew it we had parked in front of a strange house. My dad looked at us and said “ok boys, grab the bags and follow me.” We all grabbed what we could and proceeded to the door of the house. My dad had heard that this family was in a rough patch (I don’t remember the details but they weren’t able to afford groceries) and decided to do something about it. I remember seeing their gracious, yet somewhat humiliated faces. The family was almost identical to us. Young kids, and mom and dad but for some reason they just weren’t able to make ends meet.
Driving home my dad was now dealing with angry spoiled kids. How could you blame us really? My dad said pick anything you like.. I had already tasted that box of Captain Crunch.. I pictured a glee filled morning before school eating the greatest cereal on earth, and now I was quickly brought back to the reality of porridge. I focused on my situation ignoring completely the situation that family was dealing with. It only took seconds for my attitude to shift to me and my wants. Thankfully my dad was able to get past his desires to make a poignant difference in that families life at that moment.
I was raised in a house that taught us the importance of people. My biggest joy is found in serving people. On the other hand my biggest frustration is serving people.
I recently tweeted a question; “What do Christians do that make you never want to be one?” I had a number of responses ranging from the typical “they are hypocritical” to “ they are judgemental.” I’m fascinated by how church going believers are perceived in our modern culture. As I get more and more involved in my community, expand in my career and experience day to day interactions with people however one thing remains true; We all do what we hate, and often we do it more than we notice. A simple example of this happens daily in my office. One person hates being uncomfortable so they change the thermostat to frigid arctic temperatures ensuring their comfort meanwhile freezing out everyone else. I’m confident the others don’t like being uncomfortable either. So because one person is striving for their own comfort, they force everyone around them to be exactly what they themselves don’t want to be; uncomfortable.
Thankfully, and I hope this isn’t a news flash to any of you, Christians are not the only hypocrites to judge others. We’ve all gotten angry at someone trying to butt their car into your lane for no apparent reason. We’ve also all had a brain fart or completely changed our mind causing us to need to get into that other lane. And this in lies the problem with people; though we are passionate about ideals, we are more passionate about ourselves and often ourselves trump the ideals we have so adamantly preached, enforced or just held quietly in our angry hearts. So we find ourselves forming opinions against those displaying the exact characteristics we have on any given day. We hate religious groups because they like us, are hypocritical. We picket our governments because like us, they can’t make everything perfect, and God forbid occasionally make the wrong decisions.
I can hear the back seat drivers now, ”But they’ve signed up to a higher standard. They are supposed to look out for me.” This proves my point. What’s good for you might not be good for others. The standards you hold might be the bare minimum for others, and it could be the ultimate goal for someone else.
People are frustrating, especially for those wired to be involved and give. Our expectations aren’t calibrated properly. We often hold others to a higher standard than ourselves. Sure we don’t like to be late, but sometimes life makes us late. It is really rude though when someone else shows up late. “They obviously don’t care enough about what we are doing to show up on time” is the usual response. The principal is true, being late is rude, but the sentiment is wrong and until we understand that in leadership not everything is cut and dry we will continue to grow frustrated and resentful. I’ve seen very passionate, kind and loving leaders throw in the towel because they felt like they were beating their heads on the ground. Unfortunately some of those leaders might have been chasing a pointless directive but until we grow in our capabilities to be empathetic we will continue to see things like road rage, backstabbing, a lack of volunteers and a seemingly indifferent attitude about most things.
You see the problem isn’t them, it’s you. It’s me. It’s in all of the seemingly minor character compromises we make daily. We are no better than anyone else, yet we live and lead like we are. Until we recognize our own capacity to cut corners, think selfishly and hate we will never get over the fact that others are doing the same thing. And until then we will all continue to be frustrated with others, write idea’s off because of the messenger and sit on our own soap box (size depending on empathetic ability) pointing out the flaws in everyone else instead of making a positive difference to the people and communities we are in. Think of all the good things about yourself and what you can offer. I bet some people have never seen those things. And I bet the same things that are so great about you are found in the person you hate most on earth but until you realize that you’re never going to be able to learn from them. And until then, others won’t be able to learn from you. You’re just the person that butts in traffic.