A move to a new office building at work made me see things differently. While I have spent a great deal of time over the last several months observing the new environment through which I navigate, I have also begun to think about how others see me. A couple situations really added to my thoughts.
First, there is a young many who stands on nearby sidewalks shaking a cup with change and always asking for spare change. His location changes, but his approach doesn’t. He simply wants my spare change. I usually don’t have cash of any sort — not even a penny, so I have nothing to give him. Generally, I’ve ignored him. One day, I was walking back to my office with some coworkers. I guess he was doing his normal thing, but I was engrossed in conversation and didn’t see him. My lack of acknowledgment must have been quite obvious, because as I passed him, he loudly got in my face and shouted, “HI!” To say the least, I was startled. I have chewed on this interaction for quite some time, wondering what this person must think as he sees me walking the same streets he calls home and not even acknowledging him. The next time I saw him, I went out of my way to smile, nod, and say something positive.
The second situation was with a couple of young women at church. They were having a discussion of who of Ian or me must be the most scary when upset. While I’m not sure what led to this conversation, it was interesting to hear their reactions. It’s been a while, and I recall that the feelings were split between the two of us. However, it’s made me ponder how people see me; further, when they see me, what impression do I leave on them in that moment. How often to we have a first impression of someone that forever shapes our thoughts about them?
The third situation was with another person in the U-District. He was waits for his bus each morning; As I walk to my building, I see him and others lounging around waiting. One morning, as I was just trudging to my office, this young man looked directly at me and gave me a huge, warm smile. It startled me, but I was able to return his smile knowing that for one moment we had a shared greeting.
These are just a few of the many interactions I’ve had in the last several months, but these three in particular have given me great pause. How do people see us, and do we give them a reason for them to see us a particular way? Do they see us a joyful, loving, pleasant, admirable? Or do they see us as grouchy, impatient, ill-tempered, judgmental, or haughty? I’d venture to say that many of us simply do not know how others see us. Therein lies a problem. We should be purposeful in how we live.
For those of us who are Christians, the Bible is clear that our actions should not cast a shadow on God or cause our brothers/sisters to stumble.
“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” I Timothy 4:12
“Even small children are known by their actions,so is their conduct really pure and upright?” Proverbs 20:11
“Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.” Leviticus 19:2
Check out Ephesians 5:1-20, which prescribes how our behavior should be. There is another great passage in Romans 14, which articulates that though our behavior may be acceptable, it should cease if it causes another to stumble.
Let me ease your burden a bit. We all struggle to be imitators of Christ. Therefore, even the best of us have “off” days. We may react in the moment. I know I often do, and there are many times I regret not having waiting to respond or react. That is definitely something I’m working on.
My challenge for you is to do a self-assessment. Identify how folks seek you, and start the fine-tuning.