After a few minutes in a Facebook conversation about my Orthodox culture post, I find myself inspired to share what I could easily call “Melinda’s Life Lesson #1.”
Other people do not see themselves the way you see them.
You probably think this is a painfully obvious truth, but where is your evidence for that conclusion?
Think about it. Why are people still surprised when one nation liberates another nation and the liberated nation doesn’t choose the liberator’s form of government? Why do people still make disparaging comments about other people’s faith groups (and their culture!) as if the whole world can tell which is truly superior? Why do your inlaws persist in thinking that you are the worst thing that ever happened to their child?
For that matter, why do we still have more than one religion in the world?
Other people don’t see themselves the way you see them. And they don’t see you the way you see yourself.
This leads me to Melinda’s Life Lesson #2.
“But I’m right!” is not an argument. It’s not the answer either.
It might be true. It might be completely true, and you may have all kinds of experience and conviction to back it up.
Here’s the problem. The person you are trying to convince wants to use the same argument, and he or she has just as much experience and conviction as you do. Your conviction is certainly helpful to you when you are making choices, but you can’t implant it in the person you are trying to convince, so perhaps you shouldn’t be so outraged when your conviction fails to change that person’s mind.
This does not mean I am a relativist. It just means that if you combine me and my military chaplain husband, our marriage has experienced an unusually high number of religious contexts, faith groups, human dynamics, family dysfunctions, and midnight conversations. We try to keep our eyes open, and sometimes even our minds, and that means when we are watching a human behavior pattern in one context, we are probably going to recognize it. We’ve probably seen it before in several other contexts.
Which leads me to Melinda’s Life Lesson #3.
People are people. No matter where you take them, no matter what they believe, no matter how much better what they believe is than what everyone else believes. People are people. I believe that the Orthodox Christian Church is the original and true Christian church. But this does not mean, to me, that everyone in it is automatically righter than people in other churches. People are people.
And here is my caveat.
These three lessons are what I, Melinda Lydia nee Simons Johnson, have learned by living through each day of my own life. You may have three other lessons, or ten. I’m sure you worked hard to learn yours, just as I did mine. I can respect that. In fact, I’m interested in knowing what you’ve learned.