My name is Josh and I struggle with handling ignorance well. Sometimes ignorance comes in the form of drivers cutting me off on my long commute to and from work. After a long day of sitting at my desk, it is inconceivably irritating when this incredibly skilled driver feels as though his 14 foot long car should fit into the 14 foot space in front of my car like a death defying game of Tetris. Sometimes ignorance rears its ugly head through racism (although blatant racism seems to be absent in my circles) as Charleston’s Mother Emanuel Church saw in 2015. Other times it may present itself through a half cocked argument like a candle sitting in a cracked vase…like the arguments I participate in all too often on Facebook. The most common and recent form of ignorance though tends to look like victimization. If you are reading this and asking “what in the world does he mean?”…well keep on reading. It’ll either make you ragingly mad or change your life. I like those odds.
Ignorance is such a hard thing for me to understand and comprehend. I do not appreciate ignorance, no matter what form it takes, and I guess you could call me an equal opportunist towards ignorance. When someone cuts me off in traffic without using a blinker/turn signal I tend to get angry, with a sense of righteous indignation, and my wife can attest to it. Those times I have flipped off the innocent driver in front of me are not necessarily my finest moments. I will sometimes even intentionally block someone from moving over if they are not signaling to me that they want to do so. Why? Because it’s not just for them to cut me off. If they are ignorant enough to think they can cut me off then they are ignorant enough to wait in line. At least that’s my logic.
Lately though I have been faced with another ignorant challenge to overcome: victimization. Everyone nowadays blames the “1%” for their financial problems. In fact, I once worked with a very nice lady who blamed the former Governor of Massachusetts for her bankruptcy. She claimed that ole’ Mitt Romney was to blame for her sudden financial demise. I remember listening to stories about her and her husband sitting out on the back deck soaking in their hot tub complaining about Mitt and his evil 1% cohorts. The sad reality was that this couple hadn’t been paying their state mandated payroll taxes (they lived in NH but worked in MA). When Mitt took over the Governorship he had the state revenue department pursue outstanding tax debts. Lo and behold, this nice lady now owed thousands of unpaid taxes. Why did this nice lady and her family blame Mitt? Ignorance. Why did they not pay their taxes appropriately, thus sending them into financial hardship? Ignorance.
I tend to take offense to insulting the 1% because I hope to one day be in that category (and for the record, it’s not that far away for most people. It only takes about $250,000 of household income). Those aspirations are not based on wanting to amass a fortune to store in my basement like Scrooge McDuck but to do more good in the world. I am working hard right now to build a career, gain wealth, help those around me, and “run the race well” so to speak.
Here’s a few truths that help me to handle ignorance a bit better, no matter what form it may take:
- I am not the victim in my own story. In fact, I’m the protagonist. If I were to write a novel based on my life, I am the hero. I am the one who is going to swoop in at the last minute to stop the bomb from going off, the alien invasion from destroying mankind, and the train from smashing a bus full of school children to little bits. I am not the victim in my own story because I refuse to be overcome. If I relinquish my right to be the hero then I willingly give that right to someone else (most recently I’ve seen people give this right to politicians, falsely expecting a happy ending to their story). If you turn your self into a victim, you can not claim a part of the ultimate victory.
- My second point that I need to be reminded of daily comes from a book called Ecclesiastes. Chapter 7 of this book is entitled “Wisdom for Life”. Consider it a sit-down on grandpa’s front porch to hear what he’s learned from his time on earth. Verse 9 warns to “Control your temper, for anger labels you a fool.” ‘Nough said
Lastly, this life brings many challenges along with it. My faith doesn’t promise a lack of challenges, in fact it promises the contrary. Here’s a few things my faith guarantees:
- To be ridiculed by those who do not believe. Many times this ridicule is based on ignorance. The book of 2 Timothy 3:12 says “Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” Although persecution is not always a good indicator of doing something right, it is a guarantee that I’ll experience it if I live the way I should. A guy named Paul wrote that. This guy was stoned and left for dead, shipwrecked and left abandoned on an island, bitten by a poisonous snake, and eventually on house arrest in Rome. So ya, he knows a thing or two.
- An excerpt from the book of Matthew 5:45 says “For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.” So I’m gonna have crappy days. Maybe I should have made the title of my blog “While I breathe, I’ll have crappy days” because that’s just as true.
Here is a structural truth of my faith though: Whatever may come my way I am able to handle it. Not based on my own strength or my own endurance. Not based on my own intelligence or my own ability to sit at a desk all day and slave over emails. I am able to persevere through any amount of ignorance – in any form, any challenge or circumstance – no matter the size because of another promise that is made to me based on my faith. It says that greater is He living in me than he who lives in the world. Who lives in the world? Ignorance in all its forms, hate, racism, selfishness, rudeness, pride, and egos – to name a few.
When faced with ignorance it is all too easy to respond angrily or half cocked. It is much harder to respond the way I am called to respond. The next time I am cut off on my way home (which will likely be today at precisely 5:20 pm in the black hole known as the Don Holt Bridge), I have a choice. I may not have any ability to control those around me or the circumstances I am in, will I choose to respond with who is in the world, or choose to spread who is in me and respond in Love? For what this might look like, look no further than the video of family members from Dylan Roof’s ignorance forgiving him for the deaths of their slain loved ones.
Love is a choice, choose it everyday. And always remember that when you don’t have the strength to respond well: Greater is He living in me, than he who is in the world.