Saturday, July 19, 2014

How to Spot an Elephant and Other Important Life Lessons

When thinking about elephants, I can’t help but look back on my childhood and chuckle. This may date me, but there was a time when elephant riddles were the rage.  “What time is it when you have ten elephants charging after you?  Ten to one.”  “What time is it when you find an elephant in your car?  Time to get a new car.” “How do you know if there is an elephant in the refrigerator?  You can spot his footprints in the jello.”  

I would think it would be kind of obvious if I had an elephant in my refrigerator.  That’s what makes that joke funny.  When I wrote about the proverbial “Elephant in the Room” in the adoption world, I pointed out attitudes and prejudices that seems obvious to many people, but few are willing to address.  It’s really much more complicated than that.  

How do you spot an elephant in the room? Well, assuming he is invisible, you need to search for evidence of his presence, the most obvious being that most everything around him will be smashed.  When objects are smashed, it’s unfortunate, but most are replaceable.  When it comes to people being smashed, the ramifications are much more serious.  Smashed people have little voice left to cry out for help.  Those of us who witness the smashing of someone have a moral responsibility to jump in and help.  But we need to be careful, lest that huge animal take his turn on us.

So, let me step away from the allegory and put it in practical terms to which many can relate.  Bullying has become a very popular topic in the news.  Nobody likes a bully.  We all side with the victim and become insensed that someone would pulverize another individual either physically or verbally.  Tragic stories fill the internet of teenagers that demolish others so brutally that a person takes his or her life.  Reputations are destroyed. Lives are ruined.  

Most of the time, the bully feels fully justified.  Yes, there are cases among children where bullies pounce on victims just for sport.  I would guess that often the bully has himself been bullied and  is trying to regain something he has lost.  Still, we hate bullying in any form.  

But when it comes to bullying in adults, it becomes less obvious who is the bully.  It’s harder to draw the line and know whose side to take.  It’s harder to identify if he is a bully or not, because that person seems so justified in his actions.  

Have you ever tried to break up a fight between  children?  You need to be part crime-scene investigator to determine who is at fault.  “He hit me!”  “That’s because she scratched me first.”  “Well, he called me stupid!”  “She rolled her eyes at me!”  and so on.  It’s especially difficult when one of them comes up to you in private and says, “Mom, (fill in child's name) needs to get punished.  I was just sitting and doing nothing, just playing with my toys, when she came up to me and hit me!”  “Did you do anything to cause that?”  “No, nothing.”  I have yet to experience a fight between my children where the first story was purely accurate.  It’s because all they can see is their side of the story.  When I interview the other person, she gives me her side of the situation, based entirely from her point of view.  Both have their own side, in which they feel fully  justified in their actions.  As a parent, I often use this as an opportunity to help them to see the other’s point of view to somehow bring about reconciliation.  My goal is not to take sides.  If I am parenting correctly, the highest good is that these two children will learn to get along and try and be thoughtful of the other’s feelings.  Often, as referee, I am accused of siding with the other team, making bad calls.  As there are no perfect referees, there are no perfect parents.  I have made bad calls, usually due to a lack of information.  Nonetheless, the highest goal is to get these two little people to apologize for their side of the spat and hopefully learn a lesson that they can take with them into adulthood that they need to be nice to people, and can’t always have their own way.   

There are adults who sadly, have never learned this lesson.  Their own way trumps others’ right to an opinion.  They use intimidatation when logic fails them.  They have no problem pulverizing their opponent, especially when they feel totally justified by their cause.  And the highest cause on earth that I have found to date is, “It’s for the children.”  

Well, who could argue with that?  If I can hide behind that phrase, I have so much power, I can smash any opponent who comes near me.  You don’t agree with me?  Smash.  You do something that I don’t like? Smash!  Understand, I am smashing you for a good cause, it’s “for the children.”  And since no one wants to be on the losing side, I can rally other people around me who can get sucked into my “ambivilent cause” and either help me smash, or cheer me on in the process.

I have witnessed this over the years in the church world.  A self-righteous group of people have done cruel things to pastors, their families, or other individuals in the church, all in the name of “excellence for the Lord.”  Their apparent cause fuels them to leave no one standing as they smash people verbally or with gossip.  Every pastor knows this, which is why so many who start out in the ministry end up working secular jobs at the end of their careers.  There comes a point when their own spirits or those of their family are bruised to the point that they wave the white flag and give up.  

I have recently witnessed this in the adoption world.  A few people, hidiing behind their self-imposed standard of right and wrong, rally others in the cause of “protecting children” and pulverize anyone who would think to question them.  It becomes a popularity contest of sorts.  How many people can I get to agree with me, so I can feel justified in my smashing of you?  It is really cyber bullying.  But  bystanders have a hard time recognizing it, since the cause seems so great.  How dare that person disagree with the group that is “for the children.”  They must be anti-children!  They must have a hidden agenda, so we can call them out on it.  They must be self-indulgent, selfish, heartless, inept parents who DON’T CARE FOR CHILDREN!  Gasp.  

Well, I felt a moral obligation to help out a victim recently, who was merely trying to share her struggle in adopting an older child, and got smashed myself.  Not anything too serious, but today I am licking my wounds, assessing my own rationale for entering the battle in the first place.  Nobody likes a bully.  When I saw it happen, I immediately took sides  for the victim.  That seemed easy until the elephant waved his “for the children” sword and ganged up.  Then it was ten to one.  Very hard to win that battle.

So, for now, I pulled away from that group of elephants.  I did so for self preservation, knowing that there will be other helpless victims who dare take them on.  I do so hesitantly, not admitting defeat, but knowing that battles of this sort are not won arguing with them on their battlefield.  I will continue this battle on my knees, knowing that there is a spirit that wants to destroy the people who can make the most difference rescuing children.  The God in Heaven who loves the children more than we,  instructed us to rescue the helpless, care for the orphan.  Our opponent is not a group of self-righteous people waving swords. Our opponent is invisible. He is ruthless and takes no prisoners.

Pray with me that the Lord of the Harvest would send forth workers into His harvest field.  And pray that their eyes would be open.

“For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”  --Eph. 6:12

1 comment:

  1. It is good that you made it 10 to 2 for awhile when you stood with the victim. And it is good to withdraw from battle to avoid getting smooshed completely. Tactical retreat. Know what's encouraging? The battle is the Lord's. And you aren't the only soldier. Keep up that praying!