Upside Down, But Nothing New.

There’s something really bothering me. It’s conjured a great concern in me for this generation. I see it on a lot of social media forums especially Instagram, with its graphics and photos. The problem is systemic, caustic and cancerous. I’ve heard others talk about their concern and they’re pushing back as I am so there’s hope. This is a bit of a touchy topic, so bear with me a bit as I share.

“I’ll be nice to others when they’re nice to me.”

I read the quote above a few days ago and I really wish I’d saved the post. I just stared in disbelief and read it twice just to be sure I’d read it correctly.

“I’ll be nice to others when they’re nice to me.”

Initially, there’s something head nodding about this statement isn’t there? People treat us poorly and we’re not going to stand for it – and often we shouldn’t. How others treat us affects us and has impact. But it’s twisted.

When the grocery store clerk growls we don’t appreciate it. When our neighbor trims trees and doesn’t clean up what fell on our side, we toss them back. When the other driver cuts us off we let them know how we feel. With either an inaudible shout behind rolled up windows or a digital expression of the word we’re thinking, we let them have it. How people treat us impacts us greatly.

 When I found this, I thought this was appropriate. Happy to share someone else's work.

When I found this, I thought this was appropriate. Happy to share someone else's work.

But this response is totally wrong, completely upside down…but nothing new. We are a self-absorbed people. Our wellbeing and acceptance by others matters greatly to us – just ask any professional counselor or mirror. “Selfies” abound and a small percentage are taken to show how disheveled we look. I’m continually astounded by the personal feeds on Instagram that feature one person; multiple angles and reflections of self-absorption. Yet with all this negative meanness, why should we treat others better than they treat us?

Because God has asked us to.

One of the most difficult teachings in the Bible, one that I continue to wrestle with every day, is this –

And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
— Luke 6:31

The Bible reveals over and over and over again, much to our chagrin, that we are first and foremost lovers of self. Oh, how I struggle with this. Yes, we can love others – to an extent –  but everyone is, in their heart, a lover of self. Timothy, a young man in the Bible received a letter from his mentor, Paul, expressing this truth – see if you identify with any of this.

For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.
— 2 Timothy 3:2-5

Avoid such people!

But that’s not what we do, is it? Perhaps in our day-to-day we might, but in fact, if we take a sober look at society we’ll find that such people are heralded, encouraged and elevated. From musicians, to athletes, to “successful” businessmen and politicians, we do not avoid but elect, promote and lavish gifts for their achievements. We’ve become an outcome based society rather than character based. Yet many, at their core are anything but worthy of applause. Heck, just look at the presidential candidates! They may have an appearance of goodness, but there’s something dark and rotten on the inside. It’s on the inside of all of us! Take just a moment and reflect on the last time you were upset at someone. Why were you? Now, what was your response…towards them? Was it to love them more? Did you desire to return wound for wound?

I understand self-promotion and the need for a healthy self-image. I’m not suggesting that we be so self deprecating that we’re all spineless doormats. I’m simply suggesting that we view ourselves soberly. I take “selfies” and “usies”. There’s nothing inherently wrong with enjoying the moment, relishing in the beauty of wandering and discovery, applauding talent, sacrifice and achievement. But there’s a limit and we all inherently know it. I believe many are choosing to disregard that subconscious self-check more and more. It’s not good.

With the Golden Rule in view, I ponder this: when someone treats another in a way that’s rude, disrespectful, angry, insensitive or just plain mean I wonder if that’s how they want to be treated. When able, I’ll make some observations or do some investigating. 100% of the time I’ve discovered that they hate it, too. So, why do we do this?

We need a discovery of who we’re meant to be through the eyes of God. And we need a heart change. That’s what Jesus came to both model and accomplish. An honest look at the life of Jesus will reveal His tenderness and compassion. He never added insult to injury to those who were hurting. He stooped down to assist those who were bruised, either physically or otherwise. But it will also reveal He was no push over. He championed the cause of righteousness when the self-righteous and self absorbed snarled. He snarled back.

No religion or philosophy in the world, other than the beckoning of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, is focused upon other people rather than self so sharply than the life of Jesus. That’s the glorious beauty of Jesus! For the joy of restoring humanity to wholeness and relationship, for the joy of rescuing the world from sin He endured the cross. (Hebrews 12:1-3)

So, here’s my challenge. For the next week, intentionally look for what I’ve written about, both in others and you. Meditate on what motivates you in your treatment of others. Examine how you respond to those who mistreat you. When you see someone treat someone improperly, put it through the lenses of the Golden Rule and take note of how that may appear. All of this is intended for us to be transformed into the people God desires for us to be – so, ask for His help. There’s no other way.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
— Philippians 2:3