"Do not be conformed to this world , but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." Romans 12:2
As a human being with lazy tendencies, I'm realizing how much work it is to make an effort to live justly. Doing research to find out which type of consumer products are being made in a safe environment with reasonable pay, and where to find them, is difficult enough. But if you read my first blog, you'll remember that this journey is not limited to changing my consumption habits. It's a journey to live justly in every area of my life, and some take a lot more work than others.
In the last week, I've found a few really cool companies with unique fair trade products. It takes some discipline, and definitely puts some limitations on your consumption habits, but it turns out that this is not the most difficult part of the journey. I worry that I made this more difficult for myself when I posted that justice is an attitude, because I'm finding that is what is most difficult to change. In order to live justly in every interaction, every choice, I'm learning that the first step is to change the way you think and react.
I hope none of you will judge me too harshly if I divulge the truth that I'm a little bit self-righteous. I tend to get annoyed with other people when they act in ways I think they shouldn't. In particular, when people stand right in the middle of the grocery aisle. I know it's petty, but I tend to get very impatient and think angry thoughts about their lack of spatial awareness. As I made my way around Superstore on my weekly grocery shop this last Friday, taking extra care to look for fair trade products (you can find them in the "Natural Foods" section of your local Superstore), I was stopped by a stray cart, sitting just far enough away from the shelf that I couldn't pass it with my cart, as the offending cart's owner stood pondering over which bag of chips she should purchase. I stopped dead in my tracks and gave the cart a dirty look, waiting to see how long it would take the chip peruser to notice I couldn't get past, dwelling on my frustration. It wasn't until after I squeezed by and resumed my quest for fair trade food that I realized that, in my midst of of looking for products I could eat "justly," my attitude had not been one of justice towards my fellow shopper.
If justice is love, then part of this journey is to learn to love others through our actions, attitudes and reactions. This chip lover's cart placement did nothing more than inconvenience me slightly, but my first reaction was to judge, not love. If I am to live justly in every area of life, then this needs to change. I don't know if you've ever tried to control your mind and change the way you think about certain situations, but it's not easy.
One reason it's so easy for us to judge or get angry at people we don't know is because we think they are nothing like us. This woman and I probably have a lot in common, but for the moment, I was thinking with an "us vs. them" mentality. "Us" being spatially aware people, and "them" being aisle disturbers. But if I honestly think about myself and my actions in the past, I could probably find a handful times (probably a few handfuls) when I've been too distracted to notice that I was in someone else's way. Sometimes people are just a little absent minded. And, being human, I am too. In fact, I'm usually a lot absent minded.
It's a lot more difficult to judge someone and a lot easier to treat them with love when you realize that, like you, they're just human. When you realize that "us" and "them" are really the same, it's harder to judge "them" because it means you have to judge "us."
If I am going to live justly, the "us vs. them" mentality is the first thing that needs to go. Whether it be people who are aware of their cart placement vs. people who are unaware of their cart placement, or rich North American consumers vs. poor Bangladeshi clothing makers, we are all the same. We all bleed red; we all feel pain; we all long for human connection; we all want to be loved; we all dream and are all disappointed. Realizing this, and learning that we're all "us" is the first step in learning to live justly. And it's a lesson that is in direct contradiction to what our society teaches us.
So the challenge for this week is to change the way I think about people, and to begin thinking about them with more love and compassion, and, hopefully, treat them more justly by extension. If you feel so compelled, feel free to check in and ask how I'm doing with it!