How replacing judgment with respect has the power to lift others rather than tear them down.
Although I rarely pay attention to social news, two recent interactions caught my attention. The first was a few weeks back with Ellen Degeneres and former President George W. Bush. The backlash was given to both of them because of the friendly interaction they had at a professional football game due to their vast differences in their personal and political views. The criticism was fueled by the idea that it couldn't be possible to enjoy someone's company and respect them with an opposing view, opinion, or idea. Yet, I was beyond impressed with Ellen's statement following the sharp judgement of both herself and the former president:
"Here’s the thing," she added. "I’m friends with George Bush. In fact, I’m friends with a lot of people who don’t share the same beliefs that I have. We’re all different and I think that we've forgotten that that’s OK...When I say 'be kind to one another,' I don’t mean only the people that think the same way that you do. I mean be kind to everyone. Doesn’t matter."
Kudos to her for saying something that I feel is long overdue. And the former President's spokesperson followed up with equally impressing words:
"President and Mrs. (Laura) Bush really enjoyed being with Ellen and Portia (de Rossi) and appreciated Ellen’s comments about respecting one another. They respect her,"
It All Boils Down to Kindness and Respect.
The second newsworthy event that has had people buzzing about is rapper Kanye West's new Christian album. Again, a major backlash from many, accusing him of his authenticity to the faith, questioning his motives and making a mockery out of an individual who has a newfound faith in a God that he truly loves and believes in. Believers and non-believers alike were both throwing out harsh judgment toward an individual trying to change for the better. What disappointed me most were individuals snap judgement on his heart before and even after he spoke in interviews. Yet, despite the critics, I witnessed kindness towards him in his interview with James Corden on the show Carpool Karaoke. (it's worth watching if you haven't seen it already) I have no idea what James Corden's faith life or belief system looks like but I do know he chose to extend respect instead of judgment by listening and encouraging his guest. Put simply, he was kind and respectful.
These two events spoke to me because this issue has been on my heart for a long time. I don't think it's necessarily uncommon to experience feelings of disconnect or uncertainty at times toward others who think and act differently. However, despite one person's inability to always understand another, compassion and kindness need to override the differences. Why shouldn't two people laugh together regardless of who they are and what they think? I grew up in a neighborhood with mixed faiths and politics and everyone was friendly. No one held one person's belief system against another, if they were kind and compassionate, they were friends, end of story.
My closest friends are the same. We do have a similar core belief system but we don't agree on every issue and every topic and we don't have to, that's not what makes us friends. Love, loyalty, and compassion towards one another are what bond us together. It is possible to encourage and love those around you and treat them with respect despite the differences. Part of being a Christian is being more "Christ-like." To me, that means extending grace and respect to all people all the time, as He did. That doesn't mean I forgo my beliefs, instead, it means I am trying to live them by offering respect and a word of kindness, loving them first and offering the same support, grace, and love I would want them to offer me. Respect will always be the kind word people are looking for.