Farmville Enterprise June 12, 2019
A few minutes after Auburn defeated UNC in the NCAA basketball’s Sweet Sixteen this past March I got a text from a good friend in Alabama. “How about those Tigers?” My immediate feelings and thoughts were admittedly extreme. Mortification. Mouth-dropping shock. Was she raised in a barn? Who in the world would text something like that, and so quickly? She obviously did not know Stone Cardinal Rule No. 7 (behind love God, extend grace, take up for the underdog, do everything to the best of your ability, tell the truth and gather facts objectively). Never goad someone about the loss of their sports team, especially within the first 48 hours. Deeply ingrained in my psyche since marriage, I don’t joke about Duke, NC State or ECU losing. Such teasing could be a personal affront. Actually, my Auburn friend, out of all the people I know, is one of the most intentional and genuine about living out her Christian faith in all areas of life. She’s a great, likable person. Of course, she had no idea that her Tiger text would be taken any way other than lightly. It was not like it was about Auburn v. Alabama football.
A few weeks ago someone wrote a social media post expressing irritation about a walker putting a bag of dog waste in the post-er’s trash can. Many others joined in the thread expressing two distinct sentiments. One group agreed with the original post. What kind of person would put such a bag in another person’s bin? How rude! Were they raised in a barn? The other group was more optimistic. Wasn’t it good that the walker picked up the waste and put it in a bag? At least the walker didn’t just leave it out in the open. Some even welcomed readers to put bags in their bins.
Rocky and I once had a related issue. On our morning walks we would put bags of dog waste on a certain curb and then pick them up on our last circle towards home. We did not want to place them in someone else’s trash because we thought that could be perceived as rude. A few times it started pouring rain so we ended our walks early. The bags were gone from the curb the next day. Eventually, a neighbor came over and expressed his wish that we would put the waste in his trash can. He said they had dirty diapers in there anyway. He did not like us putting the bags on the town property near his house. In his mind, that was bad. The problem was resolved immediately through communication. Exactly what we thought the neighbor would not want was what he did want. The lesson was that there are times when we believe we are doing the right thing but in the eyes of someone else it is the wrong thing.
Surely, we will encounter differing perspectives our entire lives. It will not be possible to avoid misunderstandings in all situations. We can, however, do our best to see different sides of a story and to give others the benefit of the doubt. Let’s not attribute to malice what could be explained by a different point of view. Many times people’s motives are purer than we realize.
The J.B. Phillips translation of Paul’s words in Philippians 2:1-4 speaks to this. “Now if your experience of Christ’s encouragement and love means anything to you, if you have known something of the fellowship of God’s Spirit, and all that it means in kindness and deep sympathy, do make my best hope for you come true. Live together in harmony, live together in love, as though you had only one mind and one spirit between you. Never act from motives of rivalry or personal vanity, but in humility think more of each other than you do of yourselves. None of you should think only of your own affairs, but should learn to see things from other people’s point of view.”