Being vigilant vs. being vindictive

(all images in this post are from the LDS Media Library)

A friend recently shared some frustrations regarding what it feels like to be considered a second-class member of society, or more painfully, a second-class member of a family.

I think I noticed it more in my personal life when I was younger. It was pretty easy to figure out who was “different.” The adults’ raised eyebrows and hurried whispers were seen by the youth and we were quick to imitate.

After all, there must be a good reason to see this person as not quite good enough, even if we didn’t understand what it was.

Savior6Gratefully, now as a middle-aged man I see it less and less in my personal life. Ann and I really do live in a pretty amazing place with pretty amazing people.

However, it seems that society at large has gotten worse.

I guess it could be that in our world of texting, tweeting, posting, and viral Internet sensations we are more aware of what has always been going on.

Regardless, there are people who feel that others see them as simply not good enough.

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As somehow second class.

Second-class citizen:  noun

  1. A citizen, especially a member of a minority group, who is denied the social, political, and economic benefits of citizenship.
  2. A person who is not accorded a fair share of respect, recognition, or consideration.

I’ve thought a lot about that.

It happens all the time: a homosexual child in a family that religiously understands the traditional-marriage path, the overweight friend who can hear the snickering behind her back, the mentally ill who can’t understand why their normal isn’t good enough to be normal, the neighbor who is released from prison for a white-collar crime, a young missionary who left later than the rest or served less time than originally planned, the cousin at the family reunion who can’t seem to overcome his drug addiction, the survivor of an attempted suicide, the faithful who simply want to live their religion openly and without excuse.

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Whether intentional or not, the message does come through that these people are subpar. You know, they just aren’t normal like the rest of us.

They are wrong and we are right.

Why do we do it?

Here it is as I see it:

All of us want to be right, or more accurately, to do right. That’s kind of the whole point of getting up in the morning.

Realistically there are going to be times that we are wrong and others are right; there are going to be times that they are wrong and we are right; there are going to be times when we are both wrong; and there are even going to be times when each of us is right, just in different ways.

So should we treat those doing “wrong” as second class?

Not if we want to be “doing” what is really first class.

Savior9It all comes down to our motivation for judging right from wrong. Am I more concerned about being vigilant of what is right, or being vindictive against that which is wrong?

What makes the difference?

As near as I can tell it’s pretty simple: Am I more angry with them for their choices than I am at peace with myself; or am I more at peace with my own choices than I am angry with them?

If you think about it, it goes both ways – for those who feel they are right as well as for those who feel they may have been wronged.

When we are angry at others for what actions they have taken, or choices they have made, or their treatment of us as a second class person, or that it’s their fault that we don’t feel like we belong, or even at just the frustration that we’re different, then we can be pretty vindictive.

Savior5That’s usually what follows anger.

But when we are at peace with what we have done, or what choices we have made, or how we treat others the best way we know how, or that we may not fit in with their group, or that we accept that we will always be different, then we become free to be vigilant in what we know to be true.

To be right.

Or, more accurately, to do right.

We can never choose our own natural consequences; it just doesn’t work that way. Our choices choose our consequences.

Savior14But we can always choose what consequences we give to those around us – especially when we feel we are right and they are wrong.

Vigilant in the truth, and peacefully so.

To me, that would be just plain classy.

 

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