Have you ever watched a baby playing? Around nine months old when they’re curious and amused by the smallest of actions. They’re mobile enough to be getting into things, but still at the age where it takes little to create joy on their faces. I was delighted the other day to have a co-worker bring her son to work for a few hours. One, I have an affinity to this kid because he shares the name of my son, Bodie. Second, babies at work bring a lightness to what, at times, can be a serious atmosphere.
Bodie sat on the floor next to the door and swung it one way, crawled over to where it landed, and swung it the other. In all honesty, I sat watching him as though he was baby Einstein solving advanced calculus problems. Back and forth…over and over. I thought in that moment how simple life is when we’re babies. Our reality is made up of that which is directly in front of us…our mom…and our dad. Our challenges are putting Cheerios into our mouth with accuracy and working on walking.
Somewhere along the way though, a narrative begins forming in our minds. We start to make sense of what’s happening around us, the relationships we have. We fill in blanks for ourselves when the story doesn’t quite make sense. There’s a learning about what helps us succeed in our life, even at a young age. Behaving, learning, achieving, it becomes evident what makes our parents give us praise. Human nature loves that praise…as young children we figure out the system.
At least, we figure out the system that works for us, in our family. But not all families are the same. As a young child, I had to go to bed EARLY, I mean….my friends were still outside playing, right outside my window in the meadow in front of our home. It seemed unfair, why did they get to stay up? Granted, it was still light as day…stays light past my 7 p.m. bedtime in the summer. But still. And, the injustice of other kids being able to eat sweets whenever they wanted! I got a quarter, once a week, to walk to the store and get a piece of candy. In hindsight, that one wasn’t a bad strategy. I was in my 30’s before I had my first cavity.
The comparisons we form lead to judgement. As we grow into adulthood, our experiences, the realities of childhood, become ingrained in us. We start using our reality to measure others. To judge them. How your family loaded the dishwasher or put on the toilet paper roll becomes a yardstick for measuring right and wrong. Of course, that’s the tip of the iceberg, if we’re not careful, our judgement can run deep into core beliefs and measuring others against our standards.
That’s the point where the rubber meets the road in relationships. We weren’t raised by the same two people and how I made sense of the world may not be how you made sense of the world. What do you do then? In simple terms, you seek to understand. Understand their perspective. That doesn’t mean you have to adopt it but understanding where they’re coming from is a starting point for conversation. It’s easy to slip into wanting to judge another’s belief as right or wrong, but that’s not our job. Our job is understanding and giving space for people to be themselves. Our job is to love, not to clobber. To remember that we have a lifetime of input behind our beliefs, but so does the other person. We were born uniquely us and continue to be that way. If we could learn to love people where they are, I believe we’d have solved one of life’s biggest challenges. Star with today, and then tomorrow, love other people, just as God loves us.