Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain


Sizing People Up

We all do it every day.  Take one look at a person and think we’ve figured them out.   Listen to them for five minutes and presume to know makes them tick.  As the saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.  First impressions are important. You can never get it back.

I don’t know him, but he does look interesting.

The trouble is how we size people up. I’ve been quite surprised at times when I’ve looked at someone with tattoos from head to toe or multiple piercings, decided they were weird, and then found out they are some of the most delightful and interesting people I know.  It’s hard not to do that, though.  It could easily be said that someone who has tattooed themselves to look like a human leopard is trying to attract a certain amount of attention and surely expects a certain reaction.  Or maybe they’re trying to prove a gigantic point.  People are more than the sum of their outward appearance, begging someone to get to know them for what they are inside of that seemingly odd wrapping.

Christians size each other up.  They decide that other people who call themselves Christian can’t possibly be because their doctrine is different.  “Oh, they think it’s okay to just sprinkle.  That’s not real baptism, they’re not real Christians.”  “That group believes there’s no hell.  They’re not Christian.”  “My goodness, did you see so-and-so drinking a beer with his peanuts at the steakhouse?  I fear he’s not a Christian.”  “And his wife, why, she was wearing pants!”  All the while they’re assuring themselves that their doctrine is the “right” one.

There are somewhere between 35,000 and 40,000 different Christian denominations.  Some will say that most of these share core beliefs that make them all Christian.  However at the root of it all there was some scriptural issue, some interpretation that caused a divide.  And they all size each other up as to whether the others believe, “according to the scripture”, their way. If not, there’s a pretty good chance that other denomination isn’t really Christian.  Scary, eh?  Especially if you truly believe all of eternity is on the line.

Even more disturbing is how Christians size up those who they believe to be non-Christians.  Christians are to be in the world but not of the world.  Anyone who is a friend of the world is an enemy of God. (James 4:4).  That’s a sad place to be in – one I was in for many years.  Deciding who I could be really good friends with and who I could associate with based on whether or not they were in the club.  Finding out that a person wasn’t a Christian made them a project.  Must.get.them.to.accept.my.Jesus.  Is that any way to treat a person?  As less-than because they don’t believe the same things as me?  Obviously they haven’t had me tell them about the good news. Because if I tell them just the right way surely they’ll see the light.  Surely they’ll see the error of their ways.

No. No. No.  This isn’t the way to treat another human being.  Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we all stopped trying to force everyone else into our mold?  Wouldn’t it be a better place if we saw each other as real people, with real thoughts, and real feelings all of their very own?  Why is it so terrible to think that another person might have an individual thought?  A free thought.  One not exactly like yours.


Are You What Others Think

I’ve done a lot of thinking over the last couple of days, been pretty introspective.  I’m a lot more vain than I realized.  As I pondered within myself why it is I feel the pull to continue an exercise which usually results in me questioning even more and having even fewer answers I’ve come to a startling conclusion.  I worry about what others think.

The big question is: why?  Why do I care so much what other people think of me?  I’d like to say it’s because I don’t want to disappoint them.  I’d like to say it’s because I don’t want to hurt them.  While that is partially true, it’s not entirely true.  I’ve built a reputation for myself.  I’m dependable, courteous, loving, caring, selfless, giving, kind, considerate and….I’m a staunch believer.  At least that’s who I was to most people.  If they knew that I doubt – not just doubt, but seriously question the tenets of the faith that they hold so dear they might think less of me.  Even if I’m all those other things – that’s still who I am.  They might shun me.  They might be angry with me.  Some of them quite possibly won’t *gasp* like me anymore.  And, well, how can anyone not like me? *grin* 

That’s just honesty.  Me being honest with myself.  That’s kind of hard to do, but it’s healthy.  I’ve kept a lot of thoughts and feelings to myself because of fear of what others might think.  But the hard, cold truth is I’ve got this one life – this one shot.  I want to make it count.  I want to be at peace with myself that I’ve lived it well.  Sometimes that might require letting go of worrying so much about what other people think and whether or not they like me.  If someone judges me that’s kind of their problem, right?

Now there are perfectly healthy reasons for worrying or caring what other people think.  Sometimes we can truly hurt others with our actions and attitudes. I will continue to live by the philosophy, “do unto others as you would have done unto you”.  That’s just practical and it’s common courtesy.  But as long as what I do hurts no one else, I’m going to try to be brave and dare to not worry about it so much.  I’ve been told that to be fully known and still loved is to be fully loved.  I’m about to test that theory. 

What about you?  What are the reasons you hide your thoughts and feelings?