I like to think that I’m a happy person, but – if I’m being honest – I’m almost always angry about something. For instance, just in the past week, I’ve fumed over the total invasion of personal and emotional space that is catcalling, culturally ingrained racism (especially in people who don’t realize they’re being racist), #gamergate and rich people who resent poor people for being poor.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t believe my anger regarding those topics was justified (I absolutely do), but I after a series of other events this weekend (I won’t bore you with the details, just trust that people were being The Worst Ever), I do think I acted in a way that’s hard to justify. I sulked. I sulked, I pouted and I was morose everywhere I went because I was sick of people being awful. So I was awful, too.
Ultimately, a sermon on Sunday improved my mood. In the sermon, Pastor Ruth explored the theological implications of imperfect people living, working and serving together. (I should probably mention here that I attend a Mennonite church led by a woman.) Her assessment? Interpersonal community is messy, but Christians are called to love people anyway, called to live, work and serve together despite the messiness.
In a way, the sermon reminded me of a question I try to always ask sisters during interviews for the Global Sisters Report’s regular Q & A feature: What gives you hope?
Because of the nature of their ministries, many sisters are knee-deep in some of the most trying situations in the world; they’re doing legal work in Artesia, they’re running Catholic schools in Muslim Pakistan, they were on the ground in post-bomb Hiroshima. To my mind, dealing with that level of suffering, fear and abuse, day in and day out, would wear on anyone – and so I ask about their hope, how they keep doing what they’re doing.
Most of the time, sisters tell me they do what they do because they’re called to Gospel work. It’s as simple as that. And I think Pastor Ruth was essentially positing the same principle on Sunday: Sometimes we have to do what we’re called to do, even when it’s hard – especially when it’s hard, perhaps. Because here’s the thing: We live in a really broken world. People, who are part of that broken world, are going to be horrible. Fact. We can’t love people only when they’re doing what we want them to do. When people are at their worst – when they’re racist, sexist, violent and mean – as Christians, we are still called to love them.
Obviously, this is easier said than done. And in the two days since I’ve been thinking through this whole concept, I haven’t suddenly become a Zen master, full of light and compassion, able to love even the meanest person. (Because, of course, the flip side of learning to love broken people is realizing that we’re also broken and just as capable as anyone else of being mean and unforgiving.)
But that being said, this what I’m working on this week in an effort to be more loving:
1. Praying for people who annoy me.
2. Praying for myself when I starting thinking negative thoughts about someone.
3. Refusing to condemn the entirely of humanity because broken people act like . . . well, broken people.
I have no illusions that this is going to be seamless. I’m sure I’ll be exasperated with at least one person this week, and I haven’t deleted any of my arsenal of snarky GIFs (if you follow me on Twitter, you know I love a good Real Housewives GIF). But if you see me use this one again, you have my permission to call me out on it.
[Dawn Cherie Araujo is staff reporter for Global Sisters Report.]