Labels.

I have a friend on Facebook that I enjoy.  We have nothing in common.  I’m in my fifties and he’s almost half that.  I am a grandparent and married and have a mortgage, and he is young and single and just starting his career.  I am a Christian and he is an atheist.  On paper, we have absolutely nothing in common. We are probably on opposite sides of every issue that enrages people these days.  And yet, I like him.  I like him a lot.  He’s funny. He has a huge heart.  He’s someone who looks out for the underdog; whether they are furry or human. A few years ago, he started a campaign to create snack bags for homeless people he saw daily on his way to work. His humanity is warm and real and a balm to those who know him. And, I hope he feels this same way about me. But, honestly, I’m not sure. I’m not sure because I find myself wondering if he knows that every time he posts something really hateful about Christians he is posting it about me.  I am the person in the cartoon he posts of the Christian ignoring the orphans or ogling a young child out in public.  Every time he promotes the idea that Christians are hateful and hypocritical and disingenuous he is saying those things about me.  And, then I wonder, is that really his opinion of me?  Does he believe that I don’t care about people who are suffering?  Does he believe that I hate people?  Does he believe that I want to feel superior or am delusional and that is why I practice my faith? Does he, on some level and despite our friendship, hate me personally? Or, is it just easier to apply one label to a group of people and lump them all in together? I don’t know.  I do know that our friendship has included none of the things that he ascribes to Christians in general and I don’t think he would apply them to me, but the posts keep coming. And they hurt.  So, what do I do with this relationship?  Do I sever it? Throw it away?  I have no desire to do that. I don’t want to lose him.  Besides, if I apply that standard, I would also have to sever my relationship with my friend of a different political leaning.  If I were the person he posts about, I would also be morally deficient.  According to his posts concerning my political party, I am delusional and uneducated and don’t care about the less fortunate.  In short, I am a horrible person.  But, I know he knows that isn’t true. We have life memories together.  Laughter and tears and warmth flow between us.  And yet, he still posts things with a label that includes me.  Me.  The person he has known for years.  The person with yellowed pictures of him in my hope chest where I keep my most precious memories. His friend. Then, I find myself wondering if I do the same thing?  Do I post things that hurt people?  That labels them in a way I know isn’t true?  And not just any people, but people I love.  People I know. Know that they collect teacups, or spend Thursdays with their Grandma or will drop everything to help me if I need it.  I don’t want to buy the lie that they are bad people.  I don’t want to accept an opinion of them that I have not formed myself.  I sure as heck don’t want to promote someone else’s opinion of them.  I want to remember the faces behind the labels.  The memories.  The inside jokes. The humanity.  I’m not going to lie–this is a big job. A hard one. Sometimes, my finger hovers above the un-friend button. It would be such a relief to not sign into Facebook and see things that hurt me.  Or disturb me.  Or challenge me.  But, what would I lose?  I would lose friends.  People who are dear to me.  People who are more than their religion or life style or political affiliation.  So, I read the article or take in the cartoon and I grieve. I grieve for what we are allowing others to say about our friends.  I grieve for labels we are willing to apply to hearts we love. I grieve for all that we are losing. I grieve that we have lost the ability to disagree civilly. And, mostly, I grieve that I am a part of any of it.  But, I also accept that I really don’t want to miss the baby pictures or job announcements or first snowfalls.  So, I sign in everyday and hope for the best and try not to be part of the problem.  Try not to label and try not to hurt.  And, sometimes, I fail at all three.  But, hopefully, my friends love me enough to remember that I have a grandson I adore, and that I recycle and that I am a confirmed goofball. And, hopefully, they remember that we love each other. And that I would drop everything to help them if they needed it. And that I would much rather they debate me than unfriend me.

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