I’m the first to admit that I like to see the best in people. Call me naive and idealistic, call me a pollyanna, of course my name isn’t really Pollyanna, but I digress. I tend to be too trusting, which as a pastor might not seem like a bad thing, however, there is always a need jump feet first the first time, ergo use a modicum of common sense, be prudent but not to the extent of being restrained. By way of tangent, I had a high school classmate who dove in and regretably ended up paralyzed with a spinal injury, hence, the feet first reference, and the subsequent desire at my high school for widespread education about the dangers of diving in, rather than initially jumping in feet first. At any rate, I will always believe what you tell me until it’s proven otherwise, yet now even with age and wisdom, I tend to embrace my foolishness. It’s the old adage, fool me once shame on me, fool me twice shame on you. The adage works ONLY if both participants are people of conscience. Someone who only cares about self-preservation and self-interest would likely not be bound by the auspicies of conscience, such that shame is irrelevent.
Which brings me to my question about mean people. Perhaps the better question isn’t do mean people exist, but instead why do mean people exist? I submit the following as evidence.
No this is not my phone, this is the phone of my 6th grade son. I will lay out the facts as I know them to be and then try to preemptively answer your questions. Emmett and his friend were at church playing basketball in the church parking lot. I was inside the building in the fellowship hall helping to sort for the church rummage sale and through a window, I took notice of a big black unfamiliar truck driving through the parking lot. Thinking to myself, “self, what is that truck doing and are Emmett and his friend safe?” I proceeded through the building to find Emmett and he showed me his phone. I was so over the moon proud that he wasn’t crying. Anticipating my question, he said that it was on the ground and the truck drove over it on purpose. Why was the phone on the ground rather than at home, in the church, in the car, in his pocket, or in my office inside the church? All very good and appropriate questions. Now, I did not catch the license plate, nor was I in the mind of the driver of the truck and I wasn’t actually in the parking lot (obviously, I wouldn’t have let him leave the phone on the ground, but that is a tale for another day). And Emmett only has his perspective as well. On many levels it was a good teachable moment, because I err on the side of grace and forgiveness (also good since I’m a pastor) both for the driver of the truck and for my son.
None of this mitigates the fact that mean people exist and mean people sometimes do mean things. However, in my la la land (no I haven’t seen the movie yet), all people have the capacity to be kind and generous, maybe they haven’t seen or experienced grace and forgiveness. Maybe they don’t know that the big world can be full of kind, loving, people who want to make the world a better place. Is it possible that mean people need to be offered a new way to live, a turn the other cheek world, an offer your coat world, a forgive them for they know not what they do world? I wonder. I know God wants us to love and be agents of peace, generosity and forgiveness because God did and does the same for us.