People Are People: One Simple Step We Can Take to Solve All of our Problems
“People are people so why should it be that you and I should get along so awfully? I can’t understand what makes a man hate another man help me understand.” – Depeche Mode
“The eye is the lamp of the body. Therefore, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how terrible that darkness will be!” – Matthew 6.22-23
I was watching an ESPN 30 for 30 Short last night about the formation of the Special Olympics. I was moved by the compassion of Eunice Kennedy Shriver and her determination to see that children with intellectual disabilities would have opportunities just like the other kids. The director of the documentary made a point of emphasizing Mrs. Shriver’s ability to “see” disabled children in ways that others did not.
I am currently reading a book for a group that I am part of in my District called The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict by the Arbinger Institute. An important moment in the book occurred for me when I read this sentence: “In every moment...we choose to see others either as people like ourselves or as objects. They either count like we do or they don't.”
Philosopher Martin Buber talked about this in his philosophy of dialogue, identifying the significance of seeing one another in an I-Thou relationship as opposed to an I-It relationship. The distinction makes all the difference in the world as it pertains to conflict of any kind. Buber suggests that when we see others in an I-It relationship we have objectified them and made them less than human; allowing us to see them as our enemy and to give ourselves the permission to hurt them if necessary.
I am convinced that this is at the root of all of our problems.
Jesus was able to see beyond the sins of the people that he came into contact with and focus first and foremost upon their humanity. Time and time again we see Jesus allowing “those people” to belong before believing or behaving.
Why do we tend to do just the opposite?
Why do we see people as sinners first?
What makes us feel the need to classify, categorize, stereotype,, label, pre-judge, dehumanize, and hate other human beings – all of which, according to Genesis 1.27 are created in the image of God?
There is something within all of us that is motivated by fear. We have an innate need to be right. The story of Adam and Eve is a story about humanity. We have a deep fear that somehow God is not enough and we long to become like God in order to maintain control and experience life the way we want it to be.
But this motivation leads inevitably to separation. We become consumed with our fears and our need to control and we slowly remove ourselves from God and from others. God, at best becomes a cosmic deity that we call upon in times of great need even though we secretly doubt that it will answer, and our neighbors become enemies unless they look, think and act just like us.
I am not sure there is an instantaneous solution to this, but I do believe that the place to start is by asking God to help us to see again.
We do not enter this world seeing skin color, gender, ethnicity, or any of the myriad other issues that tend to divide us in this world. Little Catholic children don’t have any problems playing on the playground with little Protestant children; Republican children aren’t sitting on opposite sides of the lunchroom from Democrat children; it’s not even until we adults “teach” the children to notice the difference between boys and girls or blacks and whites that children even bother to take notice.
We can see again.
We can ask God to forgive us of our unwillingness to see all of our brothers and sisters as equal and valuable sons and daughters of God: our brothers and sisters from different races, ethnicities, nations and religions; our brothers and sisters who don’t believe what we believe, act like we do, worship the same god that we do, love the same people that we do, vote for the same people that we do, or wave the same flag that we do.
We can ask God for eyes to see.
And maybe, just maybe, as we start to really see, we can really begin to love.
And love changes everything.