This is a topic I’ve been thinking about a lot this week. Moral vanity is probably one of the oldest of human mind/soul struggles and it’s never likely going away. Most certainly I battle with it on a daily basis in some way. Having a blog that discusses current events is like a gateway drug towards my own hypocrisy. It’s easy to point out what others are doing, while in a different yet similar circumstance, I may do the same thing. In fact being a writer means I have to constantly ask myself “am I practicing what I preach?”
I read the following from the blog of J.S. Park (https://jsparkblog.com/2017/03/06/when-do-politics-decide-friendship/)
“If you cut off a friend because of their political beliefs, this dehumanizes a person by trying to remake them in your own image, which is no better than religious imperialism. In other words, when we use someone’s political beliefs as a measure of their human worth, we become a “political fanatic.”
Park makes excellent point. The following is my comment on his post:
Moral vanity requires us to dehumanize others so we can attempt to attain some kind of insulation or safety from erroneous beliefs. However this moral superiority, especially in current politics, is nothing more than a sort of vain repeatings (Matthew 6) that leads to stopping thought, rather than encouraging respectful debate. No marriage, friendship, or family relationship would last if everyone made the other person view subjects and events in the same way. Just as every believer in faith has an idea of God on a group level, each person has their own relationship with Him that cannot be legislated. Every person is complex and simplifying their politics or faith and then judging them accordingly, always produces hypocrisy. This is so much of what Jesus taught, that we all get it wrong at some point. We all fail to humanize others due to our moral vanity. That is part of our intrinsic humanity, and if politics becomes one’s god, as it did for many deadly regimes, then great trouble is sure to follow.
So what do we do when we believe that friend appears to believe something we have deemed as bad or wrong? First, we ask honest questions to help clear confusion. God, after all is not the author of confusion, but we are often confused and misunderstand because our stony hearts get in the way. Acknowledging this fact is helpful. That you nor I will ever know every truth. Instead we can practice discernment. What is this person actually saying? What is their assertion based on? Where did they get this information? How was the information delivered? Did this person analyze both sides of the issue? Are there more than 2 sides? Is it possible that not all aspects of the issue have been fully revealed on purpose to cause chaos and division? Has thought stopping clichés and images been used in the dissemination of “facts” in order to manipulate certain peoples at certain times?
The next thing is to pay attention and listen – without prejudice. Meaning we take our conceptions of an issue or event and press the pause button so to speak. We humble ourselves and let the person have their say. I don’t know how many listening related deaths have occurred in the world but I’d say few. So really, even if we hear something that we don’t like or even greatly offends, we humans are strong enough to endure that given moment. We can assess at that moment if the person is reasonable enough (or if we are too) to ask meaningful questions after taking the time to assess their main points. If the person cannot be respectful to us, regardless of their opinions, then yes, we take space from that moment. If the person is repeatedly disrespectful to us personally, then indeed it is time to consider whether the relationship makes sense. Otherwise we can practice true tolerance (which is indeed a practice for each of us) by remembering no one has all the answers and that a truly human being, is like ourselves, going to have flawed thinking or simply different thinking.
Finally I’d like to note that the Bible is an excellent resource for times like these. In the midst of wars and rumors of (cultural) wars, it’s helpful to remember that we can only control so much. One doesn’t have to be a believer to see how the historical accounts and stories in the Bible reflect all times. There is always strife (which as Christians we attempt to avoid), hypocrisy, condemnation, smugness, hate, and evil. There is always also love, forgiveness, redemption, and hope too. Life goes on and on and on.
It is an honour for a man to cease from strife: but every fool will be meddling. Proverbs 20:3
In the last four months I’ve watched myself practice patience and avoiding temptation to judge. I wished I was one of those rare breeds of people who never seems to have a passionate response to instigators. They slough off shenanigans with ease rather than seek revenge. My knee jerk response is “they mess with me or my family and that’s it.” Then I have to remember “no, this person may one day save my life” even if I don’t like their current behavior. It’s a dance of the mind, heart, and spirit I’ll always need to engage in. My moral vanity will probably never go away but it helps to know I’m not the only one.