“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Overcorrections from 1 Corinthians 12:22-23

The phrases "seems weaker" and "we think less honorable" are both social determinations. Just to say "seems" implies a not entirely sound determination. Depending upon the task at hand, how I have been socialized, and my experience will determine how I perceive someone. However, there may be criteria for making this determination which are less than obvious or even unknown, needing to be discovered from a Biblical perspective, criteria may need to be taken by faith.
I have quoted this excerpt from The Letters of JRR Tolkien before, but it bears repeating (Carpenter & Tolkien, 1981, #246, p 326). He wrote...
Frodo indeed failed as a hero, as conceived by simple minds: he did not endure to the end; he gave in, ratted. I do not say simple minds with contempt; they often see with clarity the simple truth and the absolute ideal to which effort must be directed, even if it is unattainable, their weakness, however is two fold.
They do not perceive the complexity of any given situation in Time, in which an absolute ideal is enmeshed. They tend to forget that strange element in the world that we call Pity or Mercy, which is also an absolute requirement in moral judgement (since it is present in the Divine nature). In its highest exercise, it belongs to God.
Complexity may be hidden in a variety of ways. However, complexity hidden is still present. There is hidden complexity in people who seem to be weaker being indispensable. Apparently if they are indispensable, they are not weaker on every level, though they may appear so on some or many. In one or more ways, they can't be done without. Apparently, however, people do not perceive this.
Weakness and dishonor may be thought to be related, and may be, depending upon the culture. When rugged individualism was the value in America (seems to be less so today), weakness would be equated with dishonor. So as can be seen, dishonor may be largely socially determined. In another culture, where community is valued, an over emphasis on individualism might be considered worthy of less honor.
Personal characteristics generally speaking, whether the result of choices that people make or personal circumstances out of one's control can lead to dishonor. For our purposes, characteristic which may accompany impairment can cause society to think one less honorable.
However, at the same time, "seems" and "we think" although entirely subjective, may still lead to actions/behaviors based on these subjective determinations. You needn't be weaker for me to treat you as such and my treatment may actually contribute to you not only seeming to be weaker but you actually becoming weaker. And my treatment of you may actually contribute to you not only being though of as less honorable but actually becoming less honorable.
For example, I think an adult with intellectual disabilities is a child so I treat him in that manner, as weaker in the same ways a child is weaker than an adult. That person then perhaps embodies that perception to the point that they become weaker, like a child, as a result of that treatment. Treating someone who is an adult as a child causes them to experience disrespect, dishonor in the thinking of those who are observing, leading to a similar dishonoring (at best) in the observer's interactions.
I spoke at a conference in the US recently, and many of those in attendance could not understand this. The idea of treating someone in an age appropriate fashion was alien to them, and they would not accept the FACT that they were contributing to the devaluation of another person.
To correct by saying the seemingly weaker one is indispensable, is actually a significant overcorrection. He doesn't say that the seeming weaker are "pretty strong" or "actually can do some things" he goes to the absolute other end of the strength/weakness continuum saying they are indispensable.
The same thinking applies to those thought less honorable. We don't show them some patience or a little, rather we give them special honor. Perhaps honor above and beyond what we would typically show any person. Once again this is an overcorrection.
Why these overcorrections? Perhaps this is an attempt to bring things into balance or perhaps this is to make a point. Perhaps to support the statement that begins "on the contrary." The result of this perspective change should be a significant change in behavior. It demands we treat others with special honor now, which is a change in ourselves but also a change in perspective towards others. If ind out I desperately need others when before I didn't realize that I desperately needed them. The implication in both of these statements is that I have to be told about this relationship because my behavior indicates that I don't understand it. What would be evidence that I do understand? A significant change in my behavior. If someone would look at me interacting with someone in a way that reflects these prescriptions, it would cause them to wonder what it is that I see to cause me to act so differently. It may be that I do see something different which guides my behavior. Or it could be that I change my behavior as a result of what I am told and either actually do see or by faith I hope to see the indispensable nature and hope to see the result of treating someone thought less honorable with special honor.
It is as Amy Carmichael said in Things as they are, "...we believe to see, and believing even now we see..."


1 comment:

Mike Beates said...

Great stuff McNair -- carefully thinking with pointed and needful application. I learned from this and am challenged by it.

Thank you! Blessings friend,