I’m Not Big on Social Graces

Like everyone else, I like to be liked.  Frequently, people will say (especially men), “I don’t care if people like me as long as they respect me.”  As a matter of fact, that’s a major theme in a lot of the westerns I enjoy.  Now, respect is a fine thing, but I think I’d rather be liked.  The reason for this is that a relationship based on respect is akin to one based on fear.  Such place exceeding high demands on the recipient of honor and can show little tolerance for failure.  One the other hand, a relationship based on congeniality is akin to (or possibly the same as) one based on love.  When the loved one fails, though there can be disappointment, the one who loves will smile, shake their head and gently chide the act though approving the actor.  Love never fails.  I read that somewhere.

If I must continually meet a standard to be accepted, I am a sure outcast for I will surely fail.  By this, I am not saying that any of us ought not attempt respectability.  However, only gracious friendships will stand the test of time as none of us are able to perfectly keep the law.  The plain truth is that those we adore are not so different (in some cases) from those we abhor.  If we like people, we tend to gloss over their foibles, and, if we don’t, we galvanize ourselves to their best actions.  As one who places great value on achievement, I don’t intend to give anyone a pass on good behavior but would like to promote acceptance if not affirmation on a broader scale.  Looking back over time, I fear that I was ready with the sword and satisfied the itchy trigger finger too often.

In today’s world, there is growing pressure to conform.  Call it political-correctness (if you are so inclined) though what is politically correct is in the eye of the beholder.  In fact, that may be said of correctness whatever the application.  In other words, pressure to adapt and adopt is on every hand.  Not all of this is bad since some semblance of uniformity delivers us from chaos, but the river tends to run downhill and heralded changes may have horrific ends.  We may be urged to go along for the sake of pleasant cooperation and lose the serious, moral basis of living.  One of the common complaints of dissenters is that there is personal animas against the messenger and not plausible argument against the message.  It is not easy to biblically love people with whom you disagree.

There are poles of tension between performance and position.  We’ll not be able to live in peace with anyone if we insist of flawless performance, so it may be good to place our emphases on the goals of individuals and organizations.  Those who follow Christ are called to peace and, as such, will need to learn to be gentle and accepting while not sacrificing baseline principles of godliness for the sake of good relations.  This balancing act is akin to that of functioning in a pluralistic society and not losing particular self.  Scripture is clear that distinct individuals also have direct interests in corporate functions.  Each of us is a part of God’s building and the earthly bureaucracy.  We serve in each according to our abilities donating and devoting our best actions and highest intentions.

I wouldn’t cross the street to be a member of any group, and, by that, I’m not judging any group or its members.  While I want to be accepted and wish to grant same, I wish to happily cooperate with honorable comrades without sacrificing my soul to belong.  We should give each other that much.  I find it a bit more bracing to challenge myself than to sit by the fire of settled practices, so I may approach shared goals differently.  My desire is to swim in the open sea and not be eaten alive.  With age, I find more leeway in this, and wish you safety on your voyage though not calm seas.  My respect goes with you but, to a greater degree, my affection, and you don’t have to earn it.  We each have places under God in the plan and production of His work apart from mutual admiration.


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