Mean People

I saw a young woman in an old green car waiting for the traffic to move so she could pull in from an alley way. So, I slowed and stopped and waved her in. She smiled, gave a little wave and pulled into my lane. As she did, I saw a bumper sticker on the back of her car. Have you ever seen those stickers that read, “Mean People Suck”? This was one of those, but the top line had been carefully cut off, so now the sign read, “People Suck.” As I finished reading I looked up and she was looking right into my eyes in her rear view mirror. I created a gentle smile and she looked away.
I get the sentiment. I get the reasons that coalesce so that my past experience becomes my identity, and it must be stated explicitly. Everyone can know me then and can be influenced to know this truth with me. I’ve known more than a moment when this wasn’t just a passing feeling. I’ve known a large season of my life when it was my identity as well. I get the sentiment.
It would have been cool to have a cup of coffee with her and to hear.
What we state explicitly in front of the world is our identity. What we state explicitly but without signs is also our identity. Influence is such a subtle thing. It’s a woven thread and what we have to be most careful about is thinking that it is only within the tapestry of our lives. We must be aware that tapestries are images and images influence. They do that down to the threads.
Choosing not to be influenced is an immense undertaking within a day’s living. Will be influenced by the attitude of the waitress who brings our coffee? Will we be influenced by the beggar who doesn’t just ask but accosts? Will we be influenced by the reporter on the morning news show, the Facebook post, the late night email, the way the person coming out of the drug store who doesn’t seem to notice our reality let alone hold the door? Is it even possible not to be influenced?
And who is influenced by us, our face, our lack of or our complete composure?
I carry within me an image of wind and waves, and of my father teaching me to use a tiller in a small sailboat. tiller2He taught me how to guide the rudder within the wind and waves. I wasn’t to worry about how I was pushed, rushed or even jolted. Those things just happen. I was to keep my eyes on the horizon, to a point, a fixed point that I saw and could keep seeing. The boat was going to shift. It would ride the current and get pressed by the wind. But those things didn’t control the boat, my hand on the tiller guided it. The fixed point guided it. My job was to bring it back to the fixed point, gently, and with comfortable confidence. I was to respect the wind and the waves, but not believe they dominated me.
We read that a man was told to get out of a boat and to walk on the water out to his friend. His name was Peter and he did what he was told, but then he looked at the wind and the waves. He had never seen someone walk on water before but he completely understood the power of wind and waves. In a moment, they dominated him and the fixed point disappeared. Jesus remains the fixed point.
Mean people claim dominance, but they don’t have it. They claim assurance, but the volume at which they state it reveals their insecurity. Every now and then mean people become anyone and even, it seems sometimes, everyone, but that’s not actually true. It just feels that way. The truth is that we can always be the truth that not everyone is mean. We can always be that… with a fixed point.
Blessings,
Geoff

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