Training our eyes to peer beyond what we are conditioned to see in other people may be the most difficult task that lies ahead for our society. Think about how many times you misread a persons life situation based on what they presented in social media. Or how you treated another individual harshly because “the news” told you they were an enemy. Or how you shunned a person based on one interaction fueled by desperation you knew nothing about. It permeates our lives in casual ways when you look past a person in a conversation to find someone else you perceive as more important.
I remember a time when I experienced this in the most unusual of settings. I was on a trip for a conference hosted by a leader I had come to appreciate. He was one author on a list of over 26 books I had read over the last year. This reading list was a milestone for me. I was thankful for the challenge and even more excited for the accomplishment. While I was on this trip with other leaders we were in a van and deep in discussion about an upcoming session. They shared a bit of information that blew me away at the time. Apparently it was information that should have been in my brain already after reading this leaders book.
He let me know after asking…”did you read chapter 9 in my book?” Then the rest of the van did the same thing. Immediately I was transported back to the information but it was too late. The entire van full of people were led to a harsh conclusion without hesitation. “You must not have read that book after all.” Even though I had demonstrated in several other sessions my understanding of his book and its principles, it was all dismissed in an instant. I forgot a section. It was certainly there. I felt regret and shame and I could not escape the moment. I was trapped in a van for 20-30 more minutes as we finished our trip.
Having someone misjudge me so harshly for something so trivial. To have him lead others into that same judgement was a helpless feeling. In the moment I was ashamed for my lack of memory, angry at his public chastisement, sad for the lost respect taking over my heart, and closed to any new revelations for upcoming sessions. But it was a catalyst. I saw this leader in a new light. Instead of letting it stick with me I shook it off and moved on, but that took time.
There was never a deeper questioning of my error. The point was made to the entire van of leaders. You better remember every word you read or you will be judged just as harshly. I changed the way I read after this trip. I read with less effort on pace but still with a larger goal of quantity. I guard my esteem and reserve the right to give it out sparingly. I lead different. I do not expect that my sermons or writings will ever be so important to belittle another person over them. If someone forgets… I forgive.
Be careful your ego isn’t hurting people around you. It is so hard to see. Often times a trusted friend will let you know if this is getting to be a problem. Don’t lash out at them… listen, evaluate, grow. Not only does this process make you a better person, it will make other people around you better.