Have you ever called someone a "snob" or "unfriendly" when they didn't speak to you and later found out that they had just received some news of a tragedy? They weren't being a jerk, they were just in shock. We don't know where people start, but we have a plan where people ought to be. We don't know their motives or their background, so we make a judgment and get into trouble.
Like the old man who took his ugly dog for his regular Sunday walk in the park. The little old man sat on the park bench while his dog played at his feet. They weren't bothering anyone. Soon another man appeared with his dog. Both the man and his dog had a mean, bulldog-type look on their faces. They were looking for a fight. The man and his bulldog began taunting the little old man and his ugly dog. The younger man commanded his dog, "Spike!" and pointed in the ugly dog's direction. The little old man calmly addressed the aggressor, "I wouldn't do that if I were you." Irritated by the passive old man's comment, the hair-faced man commanded Spike to attack the frail-looking mutt. The old man reiterated, "I wouldn't have done that!" As the battle raged in cartoon fashion (lots of barking, dust flying, and dogs running in circles), the result was unexpected. Spike lay defeated, torn to pieces by the ugly canine. His humbled master said to the old man, "What kind of dog is that?" to which the codger replied, "Well, before I cut off his tail and painted him yellow, he was an alligator!"
Because we see things from our point of view, we tend to antagonize instead of harmonize. This can lead to disaster because we all have a little alligator in us. It's all in our perspective. A kid was being interviewed for a job at the movie theater. The man interviewing said, "Now, son, what would you do if we had a fire at the theater?" The kid answered, "Don't you worry. I'd get out alright." He was looking at it from his point of view. The manager was asking how he would help others. If we're not careful, we see things only from our point of view.
It's like the chicken and the elephant that were locked in a cage together. The chicken turned to the elephant and said, "We need to set a few ground rules. First, let's don't step on each other." The chicken was looking at it from his point of view. Our chicken point of view affects our relationship with others. Our tendency is to want to straighten people out for our benefit. If you think straightening people out is your job, I suggest you become a funeral director. That way when you straighten them out they will stay. Otherwise, you'll have a life of frustration because if you straighten someone out today, they won't stay that way.
Remember, God is the construction manager of people's lives, not you. Have you ever gone through a construction area with a sign that says, "Slow, Men Working?" That's absolutely right, there are slow men working. I thought about that sign the other day. We should put up a sign that says, "Slow, God Working." God is slow. I don't think He wears a watch. To Him a minute is like a million years. So let's put two signs in our minds that say "Slow God Working" and "Danger! Keep Out."
A football player decided he wanted to be a wrestler. The coach said he didn't think he would be good because he didn't have any wrestling skills. But the kid was determined. His technique was awful but he ended up at the state finals. He had to wrestle the state champion from last year. The champ was just killing him. It was so bad, the coach buried his head in his hands. All of a sudden a huge cheer came from the crowd and the coach looks up and the kid had won the match. He went to the kid and said, "How did you do that? One second you're losing and the next you win." The kid said, "He had me in some sort of position and I didn't know what to do. The only thing I could see was a big toe. So I bit the toe as hard as I could. You would be amazed what you can do when you bite your own big toe."
The truth is no one wants to get stepped on but often we're not careful about whom we step on. So the next time you feel like straightening someone out, go ahead and act like an alligator. Only this time, bite your own big toe. The construction site is dangerous enough without alligators, elephants, and chickens running loose.
Charles Lowery is pastor of Hoffmantown Church, Albuquerque, N.M.