(This week is the 34thinstallment of the book, “The Band Director’s Lessons About Life”, which TCRN is publishing as a series during 2020. This week, band director and spiritual author Donald Lee relates a parable about treating everyone with respect. For a complete listing of previous episodes in this series, click here.)
In truth I tell you, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.Matthew 25:40
It was Nigel—again. We were just out of math class. The hallway was crammed with kids making the one-minute dash between classes. Nigel wrapped his arm around Stephen’s neck in a rather uncomfortable-looking way.
“Hi, Stephen. How ya doin’?” Nigel said in his aggressive, pseudo-friendly sort of way.
Was it an awkward, grade-seven hug or a mini assault? Who knows with twelve-year-old boys? Their behavior is always half cry for attention and half play for social dominance. Stephen cringed a bit and did not appear at all pleased with this form of male bonding.
“Nigel, what are you doing?” I asked nonchalantly. I paused for a moment, risking arriving late to my band class at the other end of the school.
“Just saying hi to my friend,” was Nigel’s characteristically insincere reply.
“I like hugs too, Nigel. Would you hug me that way?”
Nigel slowly, dramatically rotated his head to look at me. It was a mixture of shock and horror. He was truly without words, albeit momentarily. A pleasant surprise.
“You know, we talk a lot about treating every person with respect. But sometimes it’s hard to know exactly what that means—especially with our friends. We like to joke around with them. Poke and punch them sometimes. What if you kept this in mind as a rule of thumb: don’t do anything to your friends that you wouldn’t do to me.”
The idea seemed to come out of my mouth without first passing through my brain, but there it was. Not a bad rule of thumb, I thought. A bit too stifling, but the more I thought about it, the more it seemed to have universal application.
Nigel kept his gaze fixed on me as he slowly withdrew his arm from Stephen’s neck, then slithered off toward his locker. I watched as Nigel disappeared in one direction while Stephen escaped in the other. Likely, the only lasting effect was on me.
You may have heard the old saying, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” This thought comes from our human habit of saving our worst selves for those closest to us. Rarely are we rude to strangers. We put on our best selves for them. But our wives, husbands, kids, parents, siblings—they get the worst of us.
What if we were a bit more formal with our closest friends and family? What if we were to treat them with a little less “familiarity”? More civility, less rudeness. More kindness, less dismissiveness. More love, less anger. More patience, less frustration. This is our everyday “performance”—our constant “impromptu” performance that constitutes the eternal “now” of our lives.
What would happen if we treated every person we meet as if we were meeting Jesus? The panhandler in the street. The other driver who just cut us off. The sullen teenager who just put on his headphones and marched off to his room when you asked him to do the dishes. Tough, eh?
In their greeting, the Hindus express the sense of the Divine within each of us: Namaste. It means “the divine light within me bows to the divine light within you.” My soul greets your soul. Both are divine sparks of the one Light that is God. For the truth is, we are meeting God in every person since the Holy Spirit dwells within every person.
Don’t do anything to your friends that you wouldn’t do to Jesus. What an idea! If we act on that truth, it will transform our lives. Then our daily performances will become masterpieces.
Respect means treating everyone we meet as if we were meeting Jesus.
Donald Lee is a spiritual author and speaker. This article is part of a weekly series for 2020 in which TCRN is publishing his inspirational book, The Band Director’s Lessons About Life: Volume 1 – 50 Parables on Life’s Performance Cycle, in serial form – one parable per week. You can learn more about the author at his website: www.ComingHomeSpirit.com, or order a copy of his complete book on Amazon, or get his free mini eBook and sign up for his weekly blog. Follow Donald on Facebook.