We often believe that our safety zones are just that, safe. But, as humans we’re often misunderstanding what a safety zone really is. We don’t have the insight to see as far into the future as God can. Therefore we often make our decisions about our relationships based on how they feel right now. Unfortunately we’re often wrong and our assumed insight can bring a price we may not understand until we leave these bodies.
It’s a natural human thing to organize our thoughts, opinions and experiences into categories. Eating delicious foods, watching a great movie, enjoying a moment with good friends, those all go into the “good times” box. Getting into an auto accident, missing the nail and hammering your thumb, having something stolen, those go into the “ugly moments” box.
Walk past a garbage dumpster, yep, that one goes in the “bad smells” category. Petting a puppy, that’s probably going into the “uplifting moments” box (unless you’re allergic, then maybe you could pet a baby elephant or something like that).
Then there are the opposing categories like “Safe” and “Dangerous”. Stepping out into moving traffic, drinking from a bottle marked “TOXIC!!!” or licking an electric fence. FYI, those go in the dangerous, don’t-try-this-at-home group.
Although in the end anything can lead to danger, there are activities that can likely be in the safe group. Thanking someone for giving a gift, telling a close friend you love them or wishing your Grandma a happy birthday. All of those are relatively safe.
What about the more long term decisions? How about hiking up a mountain vs being a career-couch-potato and watching someone else hike it on TV? Which one is the safest? You could argue that the armchair traveler is more safe because he or she is not driving on dangerous roads, flying in an airplane then trekking though sketchy mountain passes. Another argument would be that the hiker is safer by having a stronger cardiovascular system, while the couch potato is much more prone to things like heart attack.
I have two points here:
We often mis-categorize our beliefs and experiences.
We usually don’t carry enough insight into what is actually safe and what is dangerous. Because what we think is safe now may launch a chain of events that causes serious damage later.
Fellowship suffers from safety
I live in the same world you do. I know as you may know, people don’t normally share their deepest, darkest secrets. Why? Because while the Holy Trinity promote the forgiveness of just about anything, people do not.
I’ve seen it since I was a kid… humans will much sooner bury each other than lift one another up. I’m sorry to announce this, but the world is not geared up to take in the mistakes we make, process them in a healthy way, then spit them back out in ways that will help us all. In fact it’s quite the opposite. We tend to use our mistakes and misfortunes to bury one another, climbing toward what we think is a better life. Don’t believe me? Watch a few political TV commercials during election time. They’re not the only example, they’re just one of the easiest to point out.
Hardship is rampant these days. Evil has a grip like never before. People are homeless eating out of garbage cans. One of the latest styles for women is to cut their shorts so far up that the pockets hang below the bottom. Substance addictions are at a terribly high level. I see groups of people sitting in restaurants, hardly speaking to each other while eating and constantly tapping on their phones. Our faces glow more by the light of a television or a laptop than by the warm conversation of friends or family.
The education we need to guide each other away from sin and consequence, it’s so rare that too many of us don’t even know it exists. Why? I think it’s because it feels more safe to solve a conflict over an email. It feels more safe to say I love you in a text. And it feels more safe to boot others out of our sandbox before any considerable conflict can arise within it. And this, this growing set of potential blows to our social ties and our fellowship, it’s an absolutely perfect example of what suffers in the long run, from what feels safe in the now.
Why are we readily cutting each other off?
As a culture we’re not stupid. We’re not deliberately looking to be unwise or hateful. We’re just sorely mislead for the benefit of one angry soul and his great pyramid scheme.
Separating, bashing and killing seem natural and instinctive because we’ve grown up with them, but they’re not natural at all. God created us in his image. If you know much about him, you know his image is loving, forgiving and inclusive. His son used his own life and death to set that example in front of us.
Yet we’re saturated with billboards and TV ads that tell us to put deep divisions between those of us who are featured in media and those who work with a less glamorous job title. Our televisions carry truckloads of shows and movies that show “superheroes” who kill others for acting out unintentionally learned behaviors. We see a homeless person eating out of a garbage can and throw out statements like “some people make their own choices”, long before statements like “anyone can fall on hard times”.
Peer information leads us to believe we’re wise and strong when we gossip, slander and sabotage.
Thing is, our God-given instinct is different than what we’ve absorbed form our cultural environment. Our God-given instinct is to open our hearts, minds and arms to one another, even when it’s difficult, even when it feels safe to do otherwise.
What is safe?
Truth is, there is no such thing as safety. You can be damaged while driving, skydiving or playing football. You can also find misfortune while sitting in a chair, strolling around a calm neighborhood or baking cupcakes. That might sound daunting, but it’s actually a good thing. It leaves us with a key to unlock a misconception. We can then move on into more beneficial activities regardless of perceived dangers.
How about sitting more than going out and doing more dangerous physical activity, nope… be on watch for the heart attack.
Maybe driving instead of flying? Nope… way more people die on roads than in airplanes.
More specific to fellowship, how about pushing someone away when we don’t get along with them? Again, nope… and here’s the wisdom and the logic. People do what people are taught to do. Virtually everyone who harms someone else thinks they have a good reason. Therefore, every side in every war believes it’s the correct one. And, as in any argument or battle, the anger each side experiences for being “right” while everyone else is “wrong”, it never goes away. Such anger is always passed down and such a race is never won.
Because the battle lines stay drawn, each new generation is brought up to face them. In this case, as we’ve seen in the past and we see today, for every person each side kills or shoves down, many more will come behind them. We don’t get to the root of our social issues and they’re ultimately never solved.
We also see this in small scales every day. People repeatedly end friendships, romantic and family relationships because they’re not learning the underlying causes of why those relationships fail.
How this will end
Let me be clear, not negative, just technical. I don’t see room for world peace, at least not within our current boundaries or not without an unprecedented miracle. Would I like to see everyone getting along? Of course, not just for the sake of those I love, but for the love of God.
I figure it this way; if I had two or more kids who tore each other to shreds, I'd be incredibly hurt by their disconnection and hatred toward each other. I can only imagine what that would feel like if I had billions. I know God doesn't need us to be fulfilled, but I'm also sure he has to be suffering in some way to see his children doing what we're doing to each other.
Every one of the over 6 billion living humans is a part of the machine called Earth. Every one of us has a different set of beliefs and broken pieces. We’re facing billions of sets of problems, each problem taking it’s own amount of time to fix.
Many humans hold strong beliefs toward their own version of how to fix the world. Most are wrong. One version is to kill everyone who doesn’t fit a given group’s ideal. Another is to use intimidation to put people in line and out of the local sandbox. The list goes on and on, unfortunately, and it includes one of the worst problems we face... the fact that most people seem to think they need no improvement. And here’s where the (near) impossibility comes in…
Any time you strike, regardless of why, your target will be likely to strike back. Offense only breeds more offense. Anger only breeds more anger. Hate only breeds hate. But positive education… the sharing of the right ways to build community, it’s as contagious as negativity. And unlike negativity and destruction, the rewards and benefits of using God’s system are much more lasting and engaging.
The remedy has to start and continue on an individual basis if it’s ever going to go global. That starts with internal questions, like “why am I really doing this?”, “Am I living my life based on my own needs or someone else’s mistakes?” and “What can I improve within myself that will lend toward improvements in the relationships around me?”
Against popular belief, against what we are often “taught”, it’s actually more safe in the long run to be inclusive and forgiving, to try to build relationships when our learned behavior may be to destroy them. This is why our brother suffered immensely and died on that cross, so that the body of wisdom called the Holy Spirit can enter our lives and help us overcome, mostly, our own selves.
The next article will be about just that, overcoming the world. I don’t mean personally taking down evil. I mean overcoming the negative and wrongful information that tells us how to destroy ourselves and our spiritual futures. The bad news is that the world shoves it into us. The good news is, we can work around it.
First article, True Fellowship - it Starts Where it Ends