Have you ever opened the police reports to find that someone you have known for years has been charged with driving under the influence?
Have you ever received news that a couple you have known for years has suddenly announced that they will be divorcing due to an infidelity?
Have you ever been made aware that one of your friend’s children was arrested for possession of a controlled substance or being a minor in possession of alcohol?
What was your reaction when little Johnnie came home and announced that 15-year-old Susie was pregnant and had an abortion?
What about the time your recovering alcoholic friend decided to hop off of the wagon and made a scene at a local bar?
Have you heard about the preacher’s daughter who dated the entire football team?
We have all heard these things at one time or another. What I would like to examine is how we choose to react to them.
When I was a teen, I experienced much difficulty in getting away with anything. My friends could do dumb things and live to laugh about it but I would inevitably get caught and reap the full extent of the consequences.
Not only did I suffer through the known consequences, but I was so bad at being bad that I had to suffer the natural consequences as well. Have you ever snuck out of the house and waded through tall grass — in the summertime — in Missouri? Do you know about chiggers? I can tell you about them if you don’t.
When I was a teenager (a few moons ago) “social media” could be contained to a relatively small geographical area.
Sure, I was embarrassed for a while but as soon as someone else did something to drop a jaw, I was in the clear.
With the onset of a new generation of social media, a mistake can follow a person for a lifetime and it seems to me that, as a society, we are more willing than ever to encourage and participate in making sure that the world is aware of every mistake that is made by every human being on Earth.
Until, that is, we are the person who makes a mistake.
It always seems to be much easier to point a finger than to have the finger pointed our way. And, for some reason, we race to find a sense of pride in ourselves when we learn about the failure of another.
A friend recently told me how proud she is of the woman I have become. My immediate response was one of fear. I am afraid of the way she might think of me if she knew all of the mistakes I have made and those that I have yet to make. I’m thankful that she has feelings of pride for me, but would she feel the same if she knew that sometimes I have fits of anger, I say mean things to the people I love most and that my bathroom doesn’t always sparkle? (Although, it always seems to “glisten.”)
What if she knew that I hurt my daughter’s feelings by speaking words of frustration and inadequacy? Would she still love and respect me if she were fully aware of my past indiscretions? What if I make a major mistake in the future? Would the pride that she feels for me right now be enough to trump my faults?
Take a moment to reflect upon the way in which you respond to the news of someone’s failure. What is the first feeling you receive? Do you laugh? Do you proclaim, “I knew it!” Do you race to Facebook or Twitter to share the news with the world?
Maybe you call or pay the person a visit to ask how you can help. That is admirable, but what do you do with the detailed information you receive? Do you shamelessly share what you know with others in order to make yourself feel important?
What if we were to begin to recognize our own faults before commenting on another’s? What if we took the time that we once spent spreading rumors and instead offered a hand up to the person who has fallen?
What if we make a conscious effort to be helpers rather than hinderer’s? What if we were to raise a hand and say, “I’ve been there. I can help you”?
What if love and forgiveness trumped pride? What if we simply decided to be better, more encouraging people?
I’m learning with you.