Saturday, November 18, 2017

Broad Strokes

(This may sound like a bit of a soapbox post although that's not my intent at all.  Hugs to you all in advance.)

"Different strokes for different folks!"  It was a favorite statement for my mom.

Most often she would shake her head as she said it indicating she didn't really understand the reasoning behind someone's actions or words.  But she wanted us to appreciate the right/privilege of others to think differently than we did.

She seemed to be on a perpetual quest for truth and for better understanding of people and their perspectives.  (Now in an effort to be totally honest, Mom would be the first to admit she was sometimes just plain nosey.  :-)  But more often she was trying to understand.)

"Don't judge people, Sheri, until you've walked a day in their shoes!" - excerpt from Mom's Book of Common Quotes.

As a result, her example gave me the desire to understand others as well.  If someone was behaving in a way that made no sense to me, instead of automatically passing judgement I tried to ask questions:
  • "I've known you for many years but what you're doing now doesn't make sense based on how I've seen you behave before.  What is this about?"
  • "Why are you laughing at that statement?  Don't you know how hurtful it is to the other person?"
  • "You don't seem like an angry person most of the time, where are those harsh, caustic words coming from?"
Imagine how much more pleasant our personal circles (and our world as a whole) would be if we all adopted Mom's advice.  Find out their WHY before judging someone.

When we get to the bottom of most problems we can usually find a root of unwillingness to consider the perspective of another.  In simpler terms - selfishness.  And selfishness will never lead us to better understanding.

There was a trigger for this soapbox post.

I read a blog last week written by a former classmate.  As a young man, this fellow was someone I admired greatly.  He was brilliant, extremely talented, had a dry sense of humor and a genuine caring heart for those around him.  

We didn't really move in the same social circles.  It was more often our mutual love for music that gave me the opportunity to be around him.  As with most classmates, we lost contact and only recently did I find his blog postings.

His writings have made it apparent that we chose two totally different paths for our lives.  For forty-something years we've journeyed in opposite directions with our thinking and life choices. 

But he is an excellent writer.  And because I'd seen him as a "fair" person while in school together, I've read his posts in an effort to better understand his perspectives.

But imagine my shock when his most recent post called me heartless, racist, intolerant, greedy, entitled.......the list went on and on.  Some adjectives were too offending to share here.  I felt as though I'd been slapped in the face.

Let me back up.  He didn't name me personally.  But his post was a rant about the "horrors of evangelicals" and their "twisted conservative perspectives."  I'm evangelical.  I'm conservative.

So, in essence, he was talking about me.  He was talking about my dear husband; all my children; my closest friends.

Now, if he and I had the opportunity to sit down over coffee and talk face to face, I feel sure he would never apply those terms to me directly.  I'm sure he still has too much class, too much compassion to insult another so harshly.

But sitting alone in his office, typing words onto a blank screen, he began painting a picture of his frustrations by using a huge verbal paint brush.  He painted eloquently without ever pausing to envision a particular individual who would be impacted by his accusations.  He used broad, generalized strokes to paint a picture of a people group as he sees them; as he wants others to perceive them.

I'm not refuting his life experiences.  I'm not denying his right to express his frustration with the individuals who have behaved this way on his journey.

I AM asking that we all THINK before we use our platforms of influence to spout hurtful, generalized words without considering where they will land.

His writing reminded me of someone who would pick up a gun and begin firing randomly into a crowd without knowing or caring who would be hit.  We've lived this nightmare too many times in our country.  We soundly denounce anyone who would ever consider such behavior.

But MOST of us have sprayed others with careless, thoughtless words many times in our lives.  Some even make it a habit and then justify their behavior.

It's unlikely this individual will read my blog post.  Although, I have tried to consider him as I've written.  I've wished for the opportunity to ask, "Why are you so angry?  What has happened in your life to make you feel so disillusioned?  How can I pray for restoration in your life?"

Our Heavenly Father uses a big paint brush, too.

Not so sure?  Read Hebrews 11.  That chapter of the Bible is known as a listing of the Heroes of Faith.  God's Hall of Fame. 

Included in that list are murderers, liars, prostitutes, adulterers, cheaters..... harsh adjectives, indeed.  It's not a list most would consider noteworthy.  But because of their faith in God (not themselves) and because of repentant hearts, they are given a brighter ending for their life story.

Faith in God makes us all eligible to come under the broad strokes of GRACE; not judgement.  I for one, want (and desperately need) those broad strokes applied to my life.  How about you?

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this post.  Feel free to leave comments (both agreeing and disagreeing) in the box below.  Let's dialogue a bit....


  1. I am a (30-something, straight, married, mom, educated, employed, gun owning) Evangelical who is also a refugee-loving, pro-choice, ok with homosexuality, could care less about your posture during the national anthem, in favor of government help for the poor, and thinks sexual predators should all be strung up by their (ahem) toes, moderate. I completely agree with the broad strokes example but if it should apply to us (white Christians) shouldn’t it also apply to Muslims and the homeless and homosexuals and the list could go on...That is, sadly, where I think the church gets it wrong and invites broad stroke judgement upon itself. The squeaky wheel gets the grease and of late the squeaky Christians haven’t looked much like Jesus.

    I feel I can see both sides of the issue fairly well. I LOVE my Jesus but I have few church friends with whom I can share all of my views. Unfortunately, it seems as though Religion must = Republican and when it doesn’t the religious are often the first to persecute (as history backs up with many examples).

    Thank you for opening this dialogue. I just keep thinking that, one day, He will ask us why we were fighting over this petty nonsense when there was so much work to do and so much good to reap!

  2. Laura, Thank you for bravely responding! I agree that too often "'Christians' behave in a way that invites judgement." (Jesus hit the attitude/behavior issue pretty strongly with the Pharisees.) I also agree that we need to measure things against HIS standard not a political or personal one. Thanks again for your comment!

  3. I'll never forget standing with my grandmother in front of the bomb shelter she hid in as a child during WWII. She was a German citizen & part of Hitler's youth, obviously innocent to the evil that was taking place. She was so bitter about the Holocaust because so many times she had been looked down upon as a German citizen for the horrid acts committed. "It's like they're saying I murdered them," she said. "Can you imagine that? Me? A murderer? I was fighting to stay alive (escaping the Russians) and at the end of the war I am seen as a murderer each time someone hears my accent. I was just a child. I didn't know what was going on. We (German citizens) were in the dark." She felt she was sentenced to a lifetime of shame for the choices of her government. Please note, I am certainly not excusing the horrendous acts committed during WWII, but I had never considered the broad brush of shame painted across all German citizens for the choices some made. I certainly could never picture my sweet Oma as a murderer.

    Many times the extreme voices are the loudest. They end up representing all of us, even though they're so far off from what we believe. Recently, a visiting evangelist stated, "One of the biggest hinderances to the church are those people operating in the gifts of the Spirit without operating in the fruit of the Spirit." Amen to that. Those not bearing the fruit make us all look like ugly trees.

    1. What an Amazing life story, Kristen! Your grandmother's story should be recorded for your own family. Thank you for sharing. Your point is so true - we must choose to see people as individuals. God loves us each one. I'm so very thankful!