Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Seeing through another person's eyes

This post is in regards to the previous one about my ex-friend Charlie. No, I am not still brooding over what he did to me; instead, the situation has afforded me another moment of clarity. Allow me to tell you a story. Charlie was a chaplain for a local Christian organization I know. The organization needed official clergy to lead certain projects and to serve as an advisor. As Charlie had only been retired for a year, he did not want to permanently commit himself to another full time job. Therefore, he agreed to the job on a temporary basis, and he saw the organization transition from a precarious situation into its golden age.

As Charlie was dying to return to retirement, he cooperated with the hiring process with great humility. Then the organization found a dynamic chaplain with many ideas and talents. We can call him Mike.  They also loved Charlie, as he helped the organization get back on its feet and instilled hope and encouragement to its clients and to those in their community. Because of this, and also because they found themselves with a surplus in funding, they decided to create a part-time chaplain position for him. He almost accepted, but then, when he met with the new senior chaplain, he asked him a question related to a hot-button moral issue in today's society, a question on which the LCMS, with whom this organization, as well as Charlie and Mike, is affiliated, has taken an official stand. Ever true to the LCMS, Mike gave the appropriate LCMS answer. This did not satisfy Charlie, who began to chase after him and grill him further.

When Mike had finally gotten tired and challenged him to determine if his heart is truly with the denomination to which the organization is affiliated, Charlie quit, declaring that he could not work under such an intolerant man. As I volunteered my time to this organization, I was ready to quit too and follow him to his next opportunity, but Charlie would not allow it. He said that he could not stand between me and something I enjoy. Still, Charlie would berate Mike to me every chance I got. He told me to be careful, or Mike would drive me away too. Because of all that happened, I used to resent Mike because I felt he drove my best friend away. Also, I started to see him as a cruel Inquisitor. Hence, I saw in him exactly what Charlie saw in him. I found myself growing increasingly unhappy where I was volunteering. When I left what is now my church again, I had to leave the organization too. When I did, Charlie tried to hide his pleasure. He would then retrieve Mike's convention speeches and chapel homilies from the organization's website, and, while playing them for me, would mock Mike's speech patterns and the words he would say. He would then say that he did not recognize Mike as a minister. Since I would have trusted Charlie with my life, I shamefully agreed with him wholeheartedly. When he laughed at Mike, I laughed. When he scorned Mike, I scorned. Whenever he spoke badly against pastors in line with LCMS values, even though he still had an LCMS collar, I was on his side--because I trusted him dearly!

Then, Charlie and I had our falling out. When he would ignore my emails about returning to St. John, and begin volunteering at the organization again, I started to doubt I had dealt with Mike fairly. When Charlie claimed that we became too close and again judged my dedication to the Absolute Truth, I became shattered. Then, as I pulled myself together, I realized that Mike was not the scorch-and-burn oaf that Charlie made him out to be. He is instead a brilliant, loving leader who wants to reach out to people and help them let Christ save them from the wiles of today's decadent culture. He stands for truth, which is more than I can say for the worldly Charlie, who thinks the Church should placate today's corrupt culture. One thing he needs to learn is that a Christian denomination is like a club. By joining a club, you agree to its rules and customs. If you don't agree with the rules, either ask God to change your heart, reconcile your disagreements, or leave. If you criticize people in the club who obey the rules to the best of their ability, simply because you disagree with the rules, you do not belong in the club.

Charlie simply, by his attitude towards Mike and people like him, does not belong in the LCMS. His true home is ELCA. Unless he can change his heart or make peace with the differences, he would be wise to change denominations before he is put in a situation where he is asked to leave. As for Mike, I judged him falsely, and for that I am terribly sorry.

Far be it for me to ever look at a person through another person's eyes. This is because I will give no one my full trust again. No one. Malcolm X said that he never trusts anyone completely but by percentage. For each person, from now on, that percentage will first start with the bare minimum I absolutely need to trust someone. For someone I just met at a party or on the street, that percentage is 0%. For someone I work with or must collaborate with for a period, 15%. For an acquaintance that I have known for some time, 30%. For someone I love deeply, like my wife or mother, the minimum percentage that I must trust them is 50%. These are the bare minimum percentages for which I must trust a specific person. If my trust for that person drops below these percentages, there is a problem. Tacked onto these are percentages of trust that people have earned. For instance, if I have a coworker with whom I share a good relationship, their earned trust could be 50%, pushing their total trust by me to 65%. This earned trust depends on affirmative answers to the following questions:

1. Do they respect my boundaries?
2. Do they respect my feelings?
3. Do they accept my capabilities?
4. Do they resist having double standards?
5. Have they never betrayed me?
6. Are they willing to make promises?
7. Do they keep promises they made and never entertain or question their promises?
8. Do they give as much as they ask for?
9. When confronted with a wrong committed against another, do they apologize and not make excuses?

The more affirmative answers to these questions, the more trust they will earn.   This means, a person may have 75% trust today but only 40% tomorrow--it all depends on a person's actions, and how they make amends. No matter what, only one Person will have trust over 90%--Jesus Christ. As for everyone else, I will try to trust, but I will be watching. This is because, as a minister can betray me, anyone is capable of betraying me at any beneficial or thoughtless moment. This may seem sad or harsh, but it is the truth.

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