I'm fed up! Everywhere I turn is a deception, a different division between people who, if we could see clearly would otherwise be a community. I don't just mean people who live near each other and share the same grocery store. I mean a band of brothers and sisters who, if we could connect the way God meant us to, would experience positive things that most of us can't even imagine. And yet here are these ugly, slimy, nasty, giant walls between us. We embrace them as if they're natural, but know this; they're absolutely... positively... not.
The outside view
Every day for the past few months my family and I have seen the same set of people who all work together. We have a unique view of this staff. We don’t work with them; we see them from the outside, but yet we’ve gotten to know a lot about their jobs and their relationships with each other. And like never before, we're in a unique situation to observe, process and pray over a group of people, this group that works where we stay.
As with any relationship; for this staff it’s often hard to see what’s going on inside, from the inside. We all get mixed up with each other in turmoil that often causes tension, confusion and stress between them. And in the staff of people we see every day, as with any staff of people I’ve ever worked with; that tension, confusion and stress has taken a strong hold. There is blame everywhere except where it belongs, toward the main causes that drive wedges between them.
I keep seeing it; not just in this team of people, but everywhere. There’s a very intricate system of tools that crush our relationships. I’ve paid attention as I’ve watched many friendships, loves, communities and families fall apart. I’ve even been educated and experienced in enabling their healing. And when it comes to what breaks down our brightest intentions and builds walls between us, I’ve seen the set of tools the enemy uses to do so. So far, the skills I’ve recognized are those in this article and the next handful of articles. Let’s start with the one I feel is most potentially damaging:
Filling in the blanks
The human brain has many modules that make it work; things that keep our lives as “on track” as possible. In every-day life, there are the more measurable mechanisms we use; like vocabulary, movement and hand-eye coordination. But then the brain gets deeper; getting into more complicated, almost abstract functions like social skills, creativity and one I’m about to get into now; the one we use to understand a situation and exist with it or move on from it. I'm talking about the art of filling in the blanks when we don't know our entire situation.
It’s easier to accept things we understand than to work with those we don’t. We need to move on even if we’re not prepared. So the human mind does this little trick; when information is missing, it fills it in; sometimes right, sometimes wrong.
Mind like a GPS
My portable GPS unit, the one I use to get around in the car when I don’t know where I’m going; it has this really cool function. If it loses satellite reception, it still remembers where I was going. Then it tries to remember the route and predict which way I need to go. So, even when it can’t find the satellite it keeps directing me with its bland, little computer voice and the cute little beach ball I’ve selected as my vehicle.
But here’s the thing; if it’s disconnected from the satellite and I take a wrong turn, even though it’s okay at trying to guess where I am; without satellite reception, it can’t actually pinpoint my real location. So if I take a wrong turn or a detour, it will be more likely to guess wrong and lead me astray.
This is the basic danger of what we humans do when we fill in the blanks. We keep trying to get to point B; but If we lose connection to the original source of information, we start guessing and almost always end up in the wrong.
How we should move on when we face blank spots
There are different ways to move on. The best way is to ask someone what we don’t understand about them; to know their story instead of judging it for ourselves.
There are times when we can’t ask or when we can’t get an understandable answer. Therefore, there are times when we can’t understand why someone is where they are or where they have been. In that case there are different things we can do. We can agree to disagree, or to forgive and let go; but in any case, whatever we do; doing it right means doing it the way Christ would. That means no vengeance, no damaging another life and no attempts to take someone off the path to God.
That may be tough to practice, but it’s better to figure out how to get through without damaging someone. That's hard in the world we grew up in; but once things like anger and revenge become part of our venture, we’re breaking God’s laws. And when you break God’s laws your venture is over before it begins.
Filling in the blanks for us
Being opportunists, the enemy often quickly identifies the areas where we are lacking information and fills them in for us. As I said in A Call (and a Letter) to all Christians, one of the most effective and simple tools we have against this practice is this; when you don’t understand someone... ask them.
**As I said in, How the Enemy Works; the devil is not an artist, he’s an opportunist. He uses those blank spots, sometimes even before we know they’re there. If he can plant an idea in the mix about how awful someone is before we ever get to know them, then the blank spot doesn’t even seem to exist. The two words I know for that practice are “slander” and “gossip” and they’re highly effective, but only when we allow someone else to judge someone or something for us.
So the trick to overcoming the blanks spots is to speak to those who you either don’t understand, or have been warned or talked to about. I’ve personally seen the opposite. I’ve seen people take on some very un-Christian, destructive behavior because of either not knowing someone’s whole story or listening to slander and running with it. It’s a practice that often invites unreasonable fear, which invites unreasonable control for those who use such gossip and slander.
How it applies in my own life
Aside from being on the receiving end of the gossip and slander, I’ve also had the blanks in my own mind filled in for me. I was taught a long time ago by many people I grew up around; people are either good or bad. And frankly, bluntly; it’s a cop-out. When we can label someone and throw them away, we’re not only stepping off the path laid by Christ, we’re taking the easy road and disassembling our community.
We’ve all heard the standard sayings about people with poor behavior. “They make their own choices”, “No one else is responsible, but them”, “loser”, etc. I was taught to always know the reasons why people were broken or appeared to be broken, before I would ever even think of asking them or being empathetic.
Unfortunately, because people do what people are taught to do, I made those snap judgements in my earlier years of life. At many points I had a decent financial situation, a nice car and a (somewhat) stable place to live. So, for some time in my youth, I thought people who appear to make bigger mistakes than I do were just bad seeds. That was until I started working with children and families, many of them broken.
Through education and experience I learned something big; for every child or adult I came across with poor behavior, there was ALWAYS at least one strong example of such bad behavior in their lives. In 21+ years, out of 600-700 children I worked with closely, not ONE of them was ever just born broken. That bad behavior was ALWAYS learned and always demonstrated to them by someone else.
Children, and often adults; we learn by example more than anything. Once I figured that out, my whole outlook on other people and myself changed. I began building much stronger systems that helped destroy poor behavior without destroying people. It meant being able to go surgical, with compassion for everyone, instead of being more like a jackhammer. It meant that I had discernment rather than vengeance. And I began to see a sharp contrast between the beliefs I grew with and the truth; between the people who act out of anger and fear, and those who work with poor behavior with compassion and empathy.
How to overcome this wall
In theory it’s simple; talk and be empathetic. In practice it’s hard. We have to be able to break away from the mob mentality; the common belief that hate and destruction solve social and behavioral problems. We have to take leaps of faith in the name of God and the examples set by his Son. We have to get through the blank spots where we're not familiar with what can happen when we plan communal improvement with love, inclusion and compassion.
There are many different types of walls between us that often have to be scaled and destroyed before we can face each other calmly and constructively. And in the next handful of articles I’ll detail every one that I can think of. Stay tuned, fellowship is ahead.
The rest of the series
Walls (2/7) - Technology (article) - We can end a relationship during a TV commercial break, or eat a meal with others while almost never looking up from our phones.
Walls (3/7) - Self Talk (article) - If the influence was as innocent and ineffective as it seems, it would have died off before we ever knew it as everyday life.
Walls (4/7) - Anger and Hate (article) - None of it makes any sense or benefits anyone. And the glue that holds it all together is deception, the kind the Devil uses every day.
Walls (5/7) - Deception (article) - If you can convince your opponent the real you doesn’t exist, you can stand right next to them with a smile on your face and hand on the controls and no one will say no.
Walls (6/7) - Money (article) - Is it bad to be wealthy? The question sounds simple enough, almost as if there should just be a “yes” or “no” answer. But in truth it’s a bit more complicated than that.
Links mentioned above
A Call (and a Letter) to all Christians (article) - All of us are called to different levels of ministry, and we're all called to do it with compassion, inclusion and love.
How the Enemy Works (article) - A general idea of how the enemy seeps into every-day life and how to deal with it.
True Fellowship - it Starts Where it Ends (article) - ...simply put, people are just not getting along.
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