My friend then gave me an illustration of the type of coffee house customer who receives the wrong drink and ends up “yelling” at the barista for making the wrong drink. Somewhere in the midst of my friend’s simple analogy there seem to be a few things he is missing….because his analogy didn’t cover the totality of our experiences.
There are a lot of misconceptions in our culture with regard to proper behavior and rules of etiquette. Growing up in a Christian environment, I noticed rather quickly that every Christian seems to have their own particular set beliefs about how and how not to behave.
If you travel across the world you will find that people everywhere have very different cultural beliefs on what is proper behavior. The British have their own concepts, just as the French, the Swedes, and the list goes on…..
In many way, “ethics” the principles that govern how a group of people should behave towards each other, changes from one culture to the next. Many people understand this simple phenomena, even Saint Paul in the bible said that “some of you might adhere to being vegetarians, other might believe it is ok to eat meat….you must each figure these things out on your own” (my paraphrase).
There is a certain sliding scale when it comes to many of these ethical concepts, and often the “rules of behavior” are rather contradictory. Young adults tend to see the contradictions in rules of behavior with first hand knowledge in their parents; who of us don’t remember our parents laying down various rules that we knew weren’t “absolute” but were merely the preference of our parents?
I had some friends whose parents wouldn’t allow their children to watch any movies other than G-Rated cartoons, and I had other friends who wouldn’t allow their children to watch TV at all!
We all have certain bents and preferences….and that is okay. We each have to make our way along this pilgrimage on earth figuring out what makes the most sense. The scary part, is that many people try to enforce their particular rules of behavior on others.
You see, people understand that there must be some ultimate objective truth; we all know murder is inherently wrong, harboring malice in our hearts toward others is wrong, and demonstrating love in our hearts toward others is a good thing…..those are elements we know to be true; because they are true, Plato would say that those truths transcend our own existence.
The error people seem to make is that they take those universal truths and weave a new narrative in which they mistake the particular cultural mores of each society and assume that those mores are universal truths as well.
“Don’t drink, don’t chew, don’t run with those who do”
How many of us have heard people tell us that drinking alcohol is morally wrong? Perhaps that is not as popular of a thing to hear in the 21st century, but working as a rehab counselor, many of my clients had come to hate alcohol so much that they weaved a new narrative in their mind in which they believed it was morally wrong for anyone to drink alcohol.
I’ve met many hardcore Baptist’s who believe that drinking alcohol is a sin; they go so far as to reword every sentence in the bible that talks about God’s people drinking beer or wine, and they change those verses to “fruit juice”. It doesn’t matter to them that they are interpreting Greek and Hebrew words incorrectly, they simply don’t care; because they believe their version of ethics is the true version.
It’s rather humorous the extent to which people go to create their own version of reality. But this is simply human nature; we all want to see what we want to see.
Enlightenment doesn’t come through creating our own version of reality. Finding the truth involves the simple awareness that a child possesses, and seeing the truth that is staring us in the face.
So is raising your voice or cussing always rude? Not by a long shot. But ultimately, we must look at our own hearts and ask ourselves what is our motivation? Are we harboring jealousy, malice, murder, or evil intentions? Or is our behavior rooted in a love for others?
It was with a massive amount of love that I yelled at the top of my lungs, “GET THE HELL OUT OF THE STREET!” to a young kid on a skateboard as a car was hurling towards him. The child moved just in the nick of time, and had I not yelled, it appeared inevitable that the child was going to be hit by the car.
I happened to sit down at coffee recently with a man who was a heroin addict for over ten years. He had been in and out of rehab, and had been to so many therapists and counselors he had long lost count.
“So what finally set you on a path towards freedom from heroin?” I asked
He looked at me for a moment and then said quite confidently, “Ya know, I’ve thought about that question a lot. I had so many people giving me counsel and telling me what to do and nothing ever worked. And then one day, a good friend of mine pulled me aside at work and took me into an empty room. He started yelling at me and talking about my children, he told me he believed in me and that if I didn’t get my act straight I was going to screw up my two daughters……..I’ve never done heroin since”
This isn’t to endorse yelling at people as a form of therapy, and it’s not to endorse yelling at people with any regularity. My point is much more simple than that; we always have to be careful not to confuse our own particular concepts of behavior as absolute universal laws that transcend existence.
Yes, there is truth that exists……but there are standards of behavior that are much less precise.
Just a few thoughts as I sipped my coffee,
Categories: Culture & Society