Speaking of Religion | My Dog's Better
When I was growing up I remember a commercial. Maybe you heard it? "My dog's better than your dog. My dog's better than yours. My dog's better `cause he eats Ken-L Ration! My dog's better than yours!"
There is something in all of us that would like to be a little (or a lot) better than others. Sometimes we look down and put down others, maybe political leaders, or immigrants, or misguided people who have different ideas from ours! Do you notice this in yourself? Sometimes it releases our anger and our sorrow and dumps it on some "other."
And there's something painful about being portrayed as the loser, the loner, the inferior. The shame and rage this creates is poison for us and for others.
I will never forget the many times in my gym class when people picked teams. Week after week I was the last to be picked. Many times I ended up on a team just as a left-over. I was a liability, "a pansy."
No matter how much I tried to pretend it didn't matter, it HURT. And it shaped how I thought about myself. I grew up in neighborhoods with few kids and no neighborhood games like baseball so I had no experience (or skill!). But I did not realize that. I just thought I was a failure.
I remember my socks. They were cheap and they always slid down my ankles. You will never find my socks low today! The colors and designs of my clothes did not match. My family did not have a lot of money, and I knew I did not really "belong" among the more fortunate.
And I thank God for ALL of this, because it makes me really concerned to not leave anyone out, to not look down on people (even though I keep catching myself doing this), and to embrace every one who seems to be on the outside.
My wife Cindy awakened me once saying, "You don't judge. You are SO understanding of everyone, EXCEPT the person who judges others. Then you give them all the judgment you saved up!" Ow!
Jesus, my teacher, identified with people who were outcast, impoverished, isolated, and he insisted that the last and least were first and foremost in God's kingdom. Jesus pressed his followers to embrace humility, to refuse judgment, and to notice the image of the Divine that lives in everyone.
All of the people through my life who have understood, encouraged, lifted me up and welcomed me in you are God's gift. The many acts of forgiveness, welcome, and efforts to understand make me and all of us better people.
Maybe our religion or the pain and the compassion we have experienced will help us to stop judging and looking down at others: the politician, the bad one, the one no one would pick. Maybe we will even start sitting down at that other person's side, learning their story, and re-discovering our shared humanity and our mutual need?
Marsh Hudson-Knapp is a member of the Greater Bennington Interfaith Council and is coordinating the Better Angels effort in our area. You can contact him at email@example.com.
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