When I was a kid, teenager and young man my outlook on life was built on a foundation of discouragement, derision, cynicism and angst. Many who knew me back then said more than once that I’d taken sarcasm to the level of an art form and then mastered that art. I was quick-witted and often the first to take a pot shot at something a friend did. While I wasn’t alone in this atmosphere of discouragement, which pervaded the schools I attended and people I spent time with after school and into my young adult life, I was one of the overachievers of negativity. Without a mentor or positive role model, placed in an environment that could turn violently hostile in the blink of an eye, I gave in to base instincts and simply looked at life as one might a battle. Strike first, strike fast and strike hard. You either victimized or became a victim...
This led to a culture I cultivated in my own mind of how I should judge others. While I wanted everyone else to ignore my flaws, forgive my mistakes and make allowances for my shortcomings, I insisted on holding everyone else to perfection… or else.
If someone did anything I didn’t agree with, approve of or deem as “smart”, they were fair game for anything from mild, disrespectful insults to outright aggression. I was taught respect was earned and quite frankly, a very small number of people were up to the standards I thought were respect worthy. And, I even disrespected those people from time to time…
In looking back, it’s almost like my presence was often a black hole in the culture in which I existed. My cynicism, sarcasm and disdain certainly didn’t encourage anyone to improve themselves. In fact, odds are I inadvertently shot a few people in the foot, proverbially speaking, when it comes to learning to soar like an eagle.
Thankfully, between my best friend, my wife and my Father-in-law, I learned that living angrily wasn’t “the way” and with a great deal of help from them I changed my outlook. Then, I came to Christ and that minor human change evolved into tangible spiritual transformation that took me away from the darkness I’d walked in for over 20 years.
I’ve learned to love others, unconditionally, in spite of how they perform. Now if someone close to me does something I don’t agree with, approve of or deem as “smart”, my heart softens and I pray God can use me to boost them if they are indeed stumbling. Because, quite frankly, when we fall do we really need those we love kicking us?
If I succumbed to my old alcohol addiction, would Robert really be helping me by getting angry and derisive towards me? If I made a mistake that led to a car accident, would Angie be helping me by pointing out how stupid it was not to look before I changed lanes? If I slipped into my old ways and said something mean spirited and hurtful to a friend, would Ken be helping out by insulting me then telling me he didn’t want me around?
It boils down to the most awesome question ever asked: What Would Jesus Do?
He would encourage, enlighten, edify, uplift, and extend grace through His love.
Anyone can be a jerk like I used to be, it’s easy, just give in to your base instincts including fear and self-loathing, allow the enemy to whisper in your ear without rebuke and let go of love.
Thankfully, as followers of Christ, we all have a front row seat to watch God in action, in us, through us and all around us, showing conclusively that we should never revel in the darkness, but strive to live in the light. Granted, I can still back slide, but thankfully, it's the exception and no longer the rule.
Thank you, Father, for giving us light!