AND Discern What Is True

July 28th, 2013

 I listened to a preacher describe his work as “comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.” In that simple description lies a world of possible choices, some productive and some not so. What many of us fail to acknowledge is the context in which specific actions designed to “afflict the comfortable’ are effective and appropriate. We have many expectations of ourselves and others, as well as of roles, titles, and responsibilities. No one of us holds the complete truth. No one of us is in the position to right all the wrongs. Some expectations are consciously chosen and others are hidden from our awareness, often buried in generalization and stereotypes.

All of us, without regard to title, social class, ethnicity, and so on share the quality of being human and therefore, the accountability to speak for and act on behalf of the values we say we hold for ourselves and all members of society.

In the days and weeks following the George Zimmerman trial and verdict, we have, as a society been called to look inside ourselves to discover our own truth about who we say we want to be and who we are, as judged by our actions, what we choose to voice or not, and how we show up in relationships. Many people, from legal experts, parents of the accused and victim, media pundits, and anyone engaging the conversation have presented viewpoints.

I am fascinated to watch, as people present their experience and versions of truth. Many wax eloquent and yet, fail to hear or consider different perspectives, instead becoming more entrenched in their own point of view, protecting their own identity without appreciating the truth from others’ perspective. The level of judgment then leveled against anyone who disagrees is, from where I sit, only an indication of fear. Fear that the world as they want to describe it doesn’t exist for everyone. Fear that if another perspective is honored they might have to change their story about who they tell themselves they are. Fear that they might have limitations that they don’t want to believe exist.

How we label a situation, or frame it in our minds, has everything to do with how open we are to learning from the different experiences of others or how entrenched we choose to remain in our view. For whatever lessons we take from this case, I personally hope we will recognize that different people with different backgrounds, genders, ethnicities, social class, age, religion, sexual preference, IQ, and levels of life experience (among other differences) will interpret situations differently. Each has a perspective to bring.  No one holds the complete truth because we are limited by our own perceptions, levels of awareness, and myriad other learned limitations.

The invitation to each of us is to ask whether what we say we value as individuals and as a society is how we are actually living. Ask whether the laws and policies we put in place really do create a society where all citizens are truly free to “pursue certain inalienable rights, among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” We are invited to skip the judgments and open our hearts to a diverse and changing world, where we can together create a new reality, if we choose. AND based on a more complete truth, we are invited to make decisions that support that truth.

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