Yesterday was nineteen years since my dad died.
He died before we ever really got a chance to talk about politics, so I don’t know what he would think about our current political climate. He died right around the time in my life when most kids start to go through the process of realizing their parents aren’t actually super heroes so I never really had to come to grips with his faults. Because of this, I cans sort of put him on a pedestal. Since he’s not here to be human and faulty, he’ll never fall off that pedestal. To some extent, this is great because I can consider what I think he would have done or how he would have thought in any given situation and it will likely be, in a superhuman kind of way, the best response possible.
I thought of this yesterday when I saw a quote.
Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him. MLK
I saw quote in a place where the intention was to, with superiority and indignation, throw it in the face of someone else. I thought that seemed a little funny because in throwing that at someone they don’t agree with, they seem almost to be manifesting the opposite of what they are talking about. Throwing quotes at people to make them feel like their thoughts are less than makes me think there’s a perpetuation of what they are actually trying to end. What if we didn’t throw quotes at each other and threw them at ourselves?
I’ve mentioned this a few times, but one of my dear teachers, Liz Heffernan says, “In every story, we are every character and every character is us.” I’ve heard this concept described another way: the things we do not like in other people are the same things we do not like in ourselves. Some of the people in my life who like each other the least are actually very similar and would probably like each other.
So, maybe my ability to give my dad the benefit of the doubt and see only the best is something I could try to do with everyone else. What would happen if I just thought the better of others? And, what would happen if I gave the benefit of the doubt to someone I disagree with the most?
Obviously there are reasonable limitations to this. I don’t need to give psychotic murders the benefit of the doubt. I don’t need to be a doormat. I don’t need to compromise my integrity. But I can always take a step back and try to remove my air of superiority or indignation. I can also consider intentionality and look past my hurt feelings to try to see what is really happening.
It can be really easy to keep people on pedestals when they aren’t around to fall off, but I have a really great example of someone who lives out the idea of giving people the benefit of the doubt: my husband. We all know that silly saying: “I work hard to be the person my dog thinks I am.” Well, I work to be the person my husband thinks I am. When I’m being a turkey, he takes the time to consider whether I just need the benefit of the doubt because of extenuating circumstances or if I need a reality check. Sometimes, I need both. All the times, whether grace, mercy, and/or reality, they are given with love.
I guess that’s all I can try to do.
What about you?