Do We Have to Make Other People Invisible?
Early on in Genesis, Cain kills his brother Abel and when God asks where Abel is, Cain responds with the famous line, “I don’t know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”.
It was the wrong answer. God gets really mad.
But why does God get mad? Is it because Cain killed Abel? Not necessarily. After all, Cain didn’t really know what would happen when he lashed out at his brother. Nobody had ever died before.
No, it wasn’t because Abel was dead. God was angry because of Cain’s apathy. Because he didn’t care.
We Do This Every Day
From this we learn that we have to care about other people’s distress, a lesson applicable in many aspects of day to day life.
For example, it may seem innocuous and even wise to walk by a person begging for money on a street corner without acknowledging him. I know, I do this all the time! “Just keep staring straight ahead like you don’t see him,” I tell myself. “Then maybe he won’t talk to you.”
Is this understandable? Sure! I’m afraid of strangers asking me for money. Sometimes they even touch me, which terrifies me and makes me angry, but my terror doesn’t make it right to pretend another person is invisible.
I may not be prepared to help that person, but making him invisible is tantamount to saying his view doesn’t count.
A Little Acknowledgement Goes a Long Way
And what about the day to day discourse with people unlike ourselves? It may seem tempting to dismiss another person’s dismay at something I think is unimportant, but that’s not right either.
You know what I’m talking about! The country is so divided these days that you can hardly talk to someone who disagrees with you anymore! I had this conversation recently:
“I guess with this COVID thing I just think people’s lives are more important than money,” said a beloved friend of mine.
Immediately, the fur on the back of my neck started to rise and I struggled not to flatten my ears and hiss.
“Oh, no!”, I said. “Don’t make that mistake! It’s not a case of lives vs. money. I care about people’s lives too, I just don’t think we have as much control over COVID transmission as we think and people are committing suicide over lost livelihoods!”.
I don’t know who is right, but I do know that what she said next went a long way.
“I understand how you feel and I love how concerned you are for people who have invested their lives into their businesses,” she said.
The fur on my neck settled down.
“Thank you.” I responded, “And I love how you always put others before your own convenience.” She really does this and I have prodigious admiration for her.
Rachel and Leah
My beautiful friend excels at what Rachel did for Leah in the Bible. You can learn about this in depth at my favorite site for profound religious study accompanied by cute graphics, but the main idea is that Rachel overcame her own perspective on a painful issue to see it as her sister saw it.
And then she tried to make it right.
If we could do that more often, if we could overcome our own myopia and apathy and acknowledge the distress of others, imagine what kind of world this would be right now.
A little acknowledgement goes a long way, even all the way back to the beginning of time.
(Note: The chickens in the picture cannot see things from each other’s point of view and they are fighting over a nest box. No chicken was injured that day, but they did give me a photograph that makes my point.)