I was driving home Thursday afternoon. After a day on the road, I was thinking about what I would like to say to you if we were traveling together. You know the kind of reflection that you have on a long drive.
Here’s what I was thinking. I was thinking that I am afraid.
I’m afraid of how afraid we are. Of how much worry there is in the lives of the people I know about things that we cannot control. And I’m afraid of how it is making us mean and grumpy to the people we love.
I think that my fear started to crystalize when a friend said, “Have you noticed that the people we are interacting with are more abrupt than they used to be?”
And I’m afraid that as soon as I say this, many people I know will say, “Yep, it’s because of that person or those people who are speaking in public and lowering the standards of dialogue and discourse.”
(I understand that. I’ve said that myself. And, if I may be so bold, I have a PhD in Rhetorical Studies and can speak with some authority on the ways that discourse works.)
But what I’m afraid of is that our fear will excuse us from taking the proactive steps we can take to express love and affection and compassion toward the people that we are spending our time with.
We do have agency, the capacity to act intentionally with the people who are right in front of us. We forget this agency. We say, “Pray that I will be patient” as if God will override our willfulness.
I think that perhaps we should pray, “Ask God to remind me that I made a commitment to choose to extend forgiveness to that person at least seven times and this is only the fourth time today and the reason I’m annoyed with them is because I’m afraid of what might be happening in the current political monologues, but I am not responsible for politicians and press, I am only responsible for me and I want to love my neighbor in practical ways like not metaphorically biting off their metaphoric head.”
I think that’s what I would say if we were riding together today.