Click below to listen to an audio version of this post on the Candidly Kendra podcast:
“Never Look Down On Someone Unless You’re Admiring Her Shoes”
When I heard my mom’s diagnosis of brain cancer I had a difficult time driving. I didn’t know it, though. In fact, as I went about my business, in a haze, trying to accomplish normal tasks such as grocery shopping and taking the kids to friend’s houses, the only clue I had was when first, another car honked at me. I thought, “What an angry, impatient driver.” But then it happened again. And I realized, “I might not be driving well.”
The grief I was processing from this diagnosis was taking up more mental space than I really had to spare. The other drivers didn’t know that. How could they? All they could see was someone who was making mistakes.
There is so much more to a person than we can gauge from the small interactions we have with them. But we analyze. We criticize. We judge.
We think that with our gift of perception we can assess the intelligence, intent, and heart of another person, but we are mistaken.
In the book Talking to Strangers by social scientist Malcolm Gladwell, Gladwell spends twelve chapters explaining how mistaken we are in our assessments of others. He says:
“We think we can easily see into the hearts of others based on the flimsiest of clues. We jump at the chance to judge strangers. We would never do that to ourselves, of course. We are nuanced and complex and enigmatic. But the stranger is easy.
If I can convince you of one thing in this book, let it be this: Strangers are not easy.”
“Proximity Breeds Empathy; Distance Breeds Suspicion”
-Dr. Eric Mason
The problem with social distancing is that we are stripped of the whole of the person, and left with only their social media presence. After two weeks (or worse) of reading their opinion on the one-and-only thing they talk about on social media (the bee in their bonnet, so to speak), we might forget why we ever liked them in the first place.
The problem with suburban neighborhoods is that we may never take the opportunity to discover the depths of who our neighbors are. We know that they take two days to move their garbage cans back to the side of the house. We know that they let dandelions grow wild in their yard. We know that they listen to music, loudly, that we don’t like. But we don’t know them. …And worse, we think we do.
The problem with sit-and-split church is that we see too little of the people sitting around us, and never discover how much we could belong. We know that they seem to have a perfect family – I could never fit in. We see their hair and makeup done – I could never have my act together so well. We don’t know them, but we think we do, and we think we could never belong.
When I see my friends after several weeks of social-media-only interactions, I think, “Oh, I remember you. I like you!” When I befriend my neighbors, giving them time one evening that honestly I’d rather spend relaxing at home, I realize that their dignity and beauty as humans extends beyond their trash cans. And when I take the time to get involved at church, in Bible studies or community groups, or even an after-church lunch with someone who used to sit-and-split in a pew near me, I discover the whole person, and learn that I can belong.
“Full Knowledge Brings Grace” – Steve Kammer
After those cars honked at me I realized that I needed to make some changes in my driving. Clearly, in my distraction after my mom’s diagnosis, I had formed unsafe habits. But I fixed them. No more honking. (I have to tell you that or you’ll really think I’m a bad driver after this next story.)
So it surprised me very much when another driver got unduly angry at me two days ago. He was waiting behind me at a stop sign, where we both wanted to turn right. We were waiting to get onto a busy road. I had to turn left immediately afterwards, so I needed to wait for clear traffic. It took a moment – barely a minute to be honest – before I could turn. When I did turn, someone from the busy road u-turned in front of me, so I hit my brakes rather suddenly to avoid him. At this point, the car behind me, not knowing why I so suddenly stopped after it took me “so long” in the first place, veered around me. As he passed he leaned way over, yelled something, and flipped me off. He went through a lot of trouble to make sure I knew how mad he was.
That man had no idea about me. He had no idea that I needed to cross all the lanes of traffic within 700 feet. He had no idea that someone suddenly u-turned in front of me. And he had no idea that I was having a hard week, apart from him, and that his reaction would release a torrent of tears that I had been restraining that would continue off and on for the next several hours.
He had no idea about me.
…I have no idea about him.