Saturday, May 19, 2012

Principles or people?


This post is a long time in the making, though its taken me a while (months) to actually get my thoughts together enough to put it down in writing.  The subject matter of this post comes from a place of hurt, frustration, sadness, resentment, and bitterness, but I have come far enough in my own healing process that I feel like I can finally tackle it.  And I feel it needs to be said, because I know far too many people out there who, though circumstances may differ, have been through similar experiences and had to grapple with the same pain I have had to endure.

As can be deciphered from reading a lot of my former posts, I had a former church experience that left me feeling battered, bruised, and knocked down.  I never walked away from my faith, but I did eventually walk away from that environment, and I feel no regret for doing so.  The healing process has been long and difficult, but I'm getting there.  My wonderful current pastor said that I needed to look at it for what it was - a traumatic experience - and deal with it and go through the same healing process as anyone else who's gone through any other traumatic experience.  Something about looking at it that way has helped me put everything into perspective and deal with it in a more healing manner, and less in a "stuck in pain" manner.  I feel I am finally moving forward, finally unafraid, and that feels fantastic!

The biggest source of bitterness I've had to overcome is something I have coined "principles over people."  The root of everything I dealt with is that people chose their own principles over me as a person.  I was going through a "perfect storm" of personal crisis - the worse depressive episode of my life, and the height of my sister's addiction - and the people I turned to for help had nothing positive or uplifting to say.  Instead, they bagged on the 12-step program from the pulpit and to my face.  They relentlessly threw the Bible at me, telling me I shouldn't be on antidepressants; that doing so, essentially, made me a Christian of "weak faith."  My parenting was questioned.  My every thought, feeling, and action were picked apart bit by bit til I was completely raw and broken.

Having gone through the pain of all that, I will never understand how people can choose their principles over the well-being of another person.  I just don't get it.  In my experience, that is the coldest, most cruel attitude anyone can possibly have toward another human being!  That is the most harmful, abusive attitude , in my opinion, that anyone can possess.

Now, don't get me wrong.  I am all for having principles.  I'm a Christian and strive to live a godly life.  But the difference is, my goal is always to choose people first.  Which is a very godly principle in and of itself.  Jesus was asked by His disciples:

"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"
Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.'  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."  (Matthew 22:36-40)

All the Law hang on these two commandments!  Basically, the rest of your principles are all well and good, but the basis of everything should be love!  Its not about what you do or don't do, or what you do or don't believe, its about operating in love and respect in everything you do.  Everything else is kind of irrelevant.

Now, I'm not saying that we have to agree with everything or tolerate everything others do, but we do still have to operate in love, respect, kindness, and tolerance for others, regardless of our own feelings.  And no, that's not easy.

And I believe these are truths that extend far beyond church pews, because the bottom line is, everyone would like to be - and should be - treated with the same level of respect.  Period.  Whether you believe in the principles of the Bible, or just the "Golden Rule," I think we can all agree that at the core of every heart, all anyone wants is love and respect.  And if that's the deepest need of your own heart, then chances are, its the deepest need of your friends, neighbors, co-workers, acquaintances, strangers in the grocery store, and even people you have very different views from.  Everyone deserves to be treated as a worthwhile, wonderful human being!

I think the most heartbreaking "principles over people" situations comes from parents.  Parents, these are your children!  You were put on this earth for the sole purpose of loving them, nurturing them, and caring for them!  Your principles are fine and dandy, but if your children don't have your unconditional love, regardless of who they are or what they do, then who/what do they have?  Consider all the alternatives you can think of...  Its a scary thought.

It breaks my heart when I hear of teens that get pregnant because they're too afraid to talk to their parents about their desire to have sex, for fear that their parents will choose their principles over their own child.  A good portion of the girls who got pregnant when I was in high school came from very strict, legalistic Christian homes, and I can't help but wonder if it was because they were too scared to talk to their parents about it.  I pray that my children wait til marriage to have sex - that is the godly expectation I hope and pray they live up to - but I would rather my kids come and talk to me and let me help them - free of any judgment, and acting purely in my love for them - than be blindsided with an out-of-the-blue announcement that my child is going to be a teen parent.

I also know people who've stayed "in the closet" for fear of their parents' rejection.  I know of people who've been completely ostracized, or even banished, from their family because of their sexual orientation.  Regardless of how I or anyone else feels about homosexuality, I cannot even begin to wrap my brain around rejecting your own child!  No, having a gay child wouldn't be easy, but its still your child, and your job will always be to love them no matter what!

No matter who you are or what you believe, though, the message remains the same.  We were put on this earth to care for one another, to lighten each others' loads, to extend help, smiles, and kind words of encouragement.  We weren't put on this earth to judge, cast out, or hurt each other.  At the core of our every action taken or word spoken toward another human being, should be love.  We don't have to agree with someone - we can still think they're completely off their rocker - but we do have to operate out of respect and kindness toward them, regardless of who they are, how they live, the choices they make, the religion they adhere to, the part of the world they come from, the beliefs they hold...  Its not an easy thing to do, but its crucial that we at least try.

Have you ever been treated as less than a person due to someone else's principles?  How did you respond?  Any other thoughts?  I'd love your feedback!

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