There is this African proverb:
When I saw you from afar, I thought you were a monster.
When you got closer, I thought you were just an animal.
When you got even closer, I saw that you were a human,
but when we were face-to-face I realized that you were my brother.
Our scarcity-driven culture has us seeing each other from afar an awful lot. It is awful.
The Super Bowl He Gets Us commercial captured this so well.
Do you see the faces treating each other like they are monsters?
What is happening to us?
“Conflict can be healthy. Expressing outrage at injustices, being a voice for the voiceless, and boldly representing your values and identity are important parts of the human experience. Jesus did all these things. But how often do our conflicts devolve from a dignified defense to a dehumanizing hate for others? And how often do we just consume conflict that really has nothing to do with values and everything to do with our guilty pleasure of hateful content, just like a grade school fight?” https://hegetsus.com/en/love-your-enemies
Is this why we waste time watching Jerry Springer, reality TV, YouTube and TikTok? I’m spanning decades of divisive junk with those choices. Why do you like it? How much time have you wasted? What is this doing to your soul?
Is this why we are bunkering from each other from afar?
These algorithms that feed us this divisive junk are selling you emotional manipulation of dehumanization.
“Pitting us in ideological battles, amplifying hateful moments and stories in all of humanity all of the time–it is a great way to build an audience and sell ads. It’s also an effective way to make people feel angry, isolated, anxious, and distrustful of others. And, just like a slot machine, our social apps reward the pleasure centers in our brains with likes, shares, and comments when we participate–commenting on that divisive video or sharing that snarky meme. It’s systemic. It’s diabolical. And it works.” https://hegetsus.com/en/love-your-enemies
Algorithms are emotionally manipulating us to see each other as monsters. Don’t you feel used and dirty?
Can you bear to hear about another mass shooting? There is a mass shooting seemingly daily now. (Don’t let this become background noise.) Or another young person killed by the police? And then find out that photos of that beatdown are posted on social media like the lynchings of yesteryears were turned into postcards?
My soul cannot.
I need to cling to the way of Jesus more than ever.
Jesus was able to express outrage at injustices and was a voice for the voiceless because he practiced what he taught. His most famous saying may be, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39)
Yes, that neighbor too. That co-worker. That influencer. Somehow can we bravely, thus vulnerably, love that person as much as I love myself?
Jesus sets the standard and fills in the gaps with his life. This is my beginning and end point and it is filled with grace. My brave life aspires from here.
Is your soul seeking for hope while you also feel the fear because the world is so scary right now? Do you feel the holy tension of this? Especially because you really do want to bunker away safely. You want to close your heart while you also want to live bravely compassionate.
May I call you to the brave decision? You know what that decision is. May the holy tension you are choosing to feel make this brave decision all the more obvious.
A safe faith does not inspire. A safe faith does not lead to awe-inspiring moments. A safe faith does not remind you of Jesus.
Something I have learned from making these brave decisions. I am no longer overcome by irrational fear that God really doesn’t have a good plan for me. Or that God is cruel. I have learned from years of God’s faithfulness that I do not need to fear feeling vulnerable but that I can brave up and walk into it because God always carries me through. When I live such a daring faith, I grow to have no doubt about this.
So I choose to see you as not a monster–even if I disagree with you. You may consider me your enemy. I may be wounded by you. But I choose to see you and not dehumanize you.