It’s the Who, Not the What

Crises are always tests of character.  We discover what is below the surface whenever stressful situations arise outside of our control and pull out our true self.  We become reintroduced to the habits and patterns and prejudices that are set and ready for the striking.  

Four feet of snow falling within a matter of days was my crisis.  

During our interminable Central Oregon winter storm, I was reacquainted with my disdain for over-sized trucks.  By observation (or subjective opinion?), their drivers come off as incredibly selfish and aggressive.  I see them ride the rear bumpers of other vehicles. I see some of them proudly display Confederate Flags. I see their exhaust setup to blow a dark grey smoke and do it intentionally at bicyclists.  And I see them drive with a certain arrogance whenever snow and ice lay adhered to the pavement.

My first few days driving in our self-titled Snowmaggedon provided confirmation bias to my prejudice.  What an ass!  What selfish jerks!   Don’t they have any concern for the anxious drivers on the road?  Why can’t they just back off a bit?  

It’s fun to judge, isn’t it?  It has a seductive and addicting quality as I self-congratulate for being a better human.  Judgment is so easy as we focus on the “what” for which we simplistically categorize people:  Big trucks, Political affiliations, Religious affiliations, Which side of town someone lives, The type and amount of technology they use, A position on a certain issue.  Ah, the joy of sitting in the judge and jury box simultaneously as I rule myself a better human and decree that if the world was like me, it obviously would be a better place.

Whether we’re paying attention or not, life (and God) make multiple attempts to knock us out of that box.  

One morning, during the third day of our ridiculous snow fall, I was writing in my local Starbucks.  As I looked up, I noticed many customers looking past me out the windows.  I followed their gaze and joined them in watching a small car stuck in the street.  The car had created a traffic jam of sorts as he cut off the road that leads to a shopping center.  His tires were spinning as he remained stationary.

As we all released a collective sigh for his predicament, an over-sized truck drove by.  He didn’t drive in a hurried manner, nor did he spray snow or grey smoke onto the stuck car.  The driver of the truck took notice of the situation and stopped.  He then maneuvered his truck so that he could connect his tow strap to the smaller car and pull him out of the unplowed snow to safety.

He wasn’t a jerk.  He wasn’t arrogant. He was kind and helpful.  

Within a few minutes a second car got stuck in the Starbucks parking lot while trying to back out of his parking space. Another owner of a large truck used his size and power to tow the driver out of his space.  

These incidents did not assist my confirmation bias.  Or maybe it’s not big trucks after all.  

A contemporary philosopher that I enjoy reading once described our contemporary society as “the Age of Rejection.”  The scientific method and reasoning, which relies exclusively on observational data, has insidiously dripped into all of life as we judge and reject something or someone based on what we see.  I see a truck and I emotionally reject that person in my head without knowing anything else.  I see a skin color and I reject that person out of fear.  I see your political post on Facebook and reject you because of your meme on (fill in the blank.)

And as I reject you, I elevate myself just one more step, because Blessed are the Self-Righteous, right?

This is not who I want to be.  As seductive and addictive the attitude that places myself better than others, I earnestly want to be a person who doesn’t automatically place you in a category that serves my interests and esteem.  If I want to be a person who practices the Love of God, I cannot keep sizing you up for my benefit.

One unintended consequence of Scientific Reasoning is that it has rejected the soul (another reason to consider this the “Age of Rejection.”)  We cannot see the soul; we cannot measure the soul, therefore the soul does not exist.  And if the soul doesn’t exist, why focus any time or attention on it?  A quick glance at current society shows that we have tacitly complied with this belief. We spend so much time focusing on what people CAN see—because just as we may reject others for what we see, don’t we want others to ACCEPT us for what they see (and what we try so hard for them to see)?  

I may even be able to display a good showing of non-judgmentalism by peppering my conversations with values such as tolerance and acceptance and love of neighbor as myself.  But if that hasn’t been cultivated in the depths of my being, is it really who I am?  

Our four feet of snow answered the question for me:  Not yet.

About the author