Mopping Up the Mess with Grace

There’s something I’ve wanted to write about for a really long time, I just haven’t known how. I have been suffocating in the hate that the world has been bringing forth. Drowning in this ocean of articles and videos and hateful words spoken.
In the morning I scroll through Facebook in hopes that the light from the phone and the reading things will help me wake up. It works about 50% of the time, the other 50% of the time it just puts me back to sleep faster. This morning I was scrolling through Facebook and one of my friends shared this post. It was a video, the thumbnail was a white woman in the face of a black man behind what looked like a return area at a department store. The caption said something along the lines of, “racist woman berates black sales person. Please share so everyone knows that people like this can’t get away with racism.”
I never watched the video. My heart broke. First in the expected way, because racism breaks my heart, and confuses me. It’s hard for me to understand why one person deserves different treatment than the next. Then I thought about the rude, hateful woman in the video who was now being dragged through the mud because of her actions. And I thought of this quote that keeps coming up for me, “rudeness is the expression of fear.” (It’s funny because it’s from Grand Budapest Hotel, not really the place I expected to find these words that would speak to me so loudly.) Rudeness certainly is the expression of fear. And this woman, terrible unwarranted words aside, was yelling at this man because somewhere inside her she is afraid.
I couldn’t say exactly of what, because I don’t know her heart, but if I had to guess I would say that she’s afraid of the fact that this man is different from her. She’s afraid of the unknown, or of change, or of any of the same things that fear feeds all of us. Fear is boring and uncreative. He doles out the same feelings to all of us in different situations because he lacks the ability to create unique ones. So, I think about those fearful feelings I know so well, that they can feel the same to me as the next person, which means that I have shared something with every person on the planet. When I feel change coming, I get defensive trying to protect what I have. This woman is hateful, yes. And defensive, and protective, and scared.
I don’t want to be perceived as defending this woman’s actions. What I’m doing is attempting to explain this world’s need for grace. This woman, terrible as her actions were, may simply be dealing with fear. Maybe someday she would have defeated fear and seen the wrongness in her actions. Maybe she never would. But here’s what I know. By sharing this video and showing everyone on the planet the worst part of this woman, we have effectively destroyed any ability she would have had to change. We have taken grace from her, and made it almost impossible for her to learn from her mistakes and improve. Maybe she really does have a hateful heart and she doesn’t have the capacity to grow, but now no one is ever going to find out. Now everyone knows what she did, and they will never let her forget it or make it a mistake of the past. It is always going to be a part of her present. 
I don’t like the public humiliation of someone who, maybe, just hasn’t gone through their growth yet. Yes, I agree we should stand up to hate. Yes, I do think that we need to be aware of what is happening under this atmosphere we inhabit. I think there’s a way to do that with grace. Without calling out the guilty party, by calling attention to the issue, not the person. It seems like everywhere I look people are standing behind a puddle of mud, waiting for it to be used to drag someone through. In their mind this is how they should stand up for themselves and the people they love.
I recently read an article about a gay woman who heard a teenage boy come out to his family at a restaurant. She then heard the family react with anger and proceeded to yell at him, tell him he was sick, and pray for a cure to his “illness”. But, instead of taking their picture and posting it on social media, instead of making a scene so that everyone in the restaurant knew what they were doing, she silently paid their bill for them. She wrote them a note on the paid receipt to ask them to be kind and accepting. She did it to show her solidarity with the boy, and she did it from a place of love. She shared it on social media, but not to bring attention to those people or ruin their lives for being assholes. She didn’t identify them, she did it to share with others how to react to hate with kindness.
She said that she behaved the way she felt Jesus would. She responded to hate with love. She gave these people grace in a situation where she could have destroyed them. She responded with love in hope that it would sink in. 

Responding in anger propagates anger. It builds resentment, defensiveness, and invokes a response. It sends us down a spiral of hate that we don’t know how to get out of, each person defending themselves and their rights, resenting the person that called them out or caused them pain.
Stand for what you believe in, always. Stand on mountaintops and yodel your support for the people you want to love and protect. Do it from within yourself and from a place of kindness. Ask yourself if you have that mud in front of you to drag someone through, and if you do, find a way to clear it out. “Rudeness is merely the expression of fear,” and if you see someone being rude or hateful, remember that many times it’s because they’re afraid. This person, action, event, has terrified them and they can’t understand, so they protect themselves. Pure human instinct. Fear of attack provokes attack. Protect, protect, protect.
That doesn’t make what they’re doing OK. It is still your job not to ignore the situation. To protect those that are being attacked, to stand with them, and to attempt to show the aggressor the effects of their actions. Sometimes that a-hole will learn, sometimes they won’t, but always you will stand up for yourself and others. Do it quietly or loudly, do it in a way that suits you best, but no matter what do it with an always present sense of grace.

It’s Christmas, and for the first time I am able to see where Jesus fits into the season (lol right? Since the whole shebang was meant to be about him. I mean, it’s named after him for goodness sake.) But in this situation that is weighing on my heart, that I am looking for answers to, I now have this wealth of examples of non-complimentary behavior in the face of dangerous fear to look to from Jesus. 

Interestingly enough, Jesus had a run in or two with fear. 
Luke 22: Now the Festival of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people. Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. They were delighted and agreed to give him money. He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present.

I think we’ve become confused about what standing up for ourselves and others should look like. Jesus didn’t take a picture of Judas and post it on Facebook with the caption, “you’ll never believe this. Share so everyone knows what this traitor looks like so he won’t get away with it.” He walked into his death with understanding, forgiveness, and grace. And we are talking about death here people. If you’re going to protect yourself from anything in this world, I think it should be death.
When I lose track of what to do, when I forget how it looks to stand in solidarity and to give grace, I think of what it looks like to model compassion and change and the people who have done it best. I can now think about fear in others, what it does inside them, and how it looks to accept it, and forgive it the way Jesus did.
Before settling with Jesus my go to change makers have always been Martin Luther King Jr. (the photo for this is actually a quote of his from his monument in D.C.) and Cesar Chavez. I always think that if anyone had a right to be angry and defensive, it was them. But they never were. They followed the example of Jesus and were peaceful under the pressure of extreme hate. They found a way to draw attention to their struggles and stand for themselves without hate or violence or mud puddles in front of them to drag their aggressors through. 
There is a difference between influence and control. I concede that there is almost nothing in this world that I can control. Even my thoughts and emotions, the only things I’m granted control over, get lose and run free of their own accord. But I can have influence. 

My words are my influence. I told a friend today that I hoped my words were enough. I can’t be present for every conflict to assist victims. I can’t stop the violence in Syria or the inauguration of a president that, quite honestly, makes me feel scared enough that I too want to express it with rudeness.

I hope I am allowed an ever growing influence, and that somewhere my words touchdown where they need to. For hopes sake, I have to believe that they will.
Kindness. Forgiveness. Grace. In all circumstances, to every person. Just try.    


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