The Measure of a Man

I’ve grown up in a slightly insular community. For almost all my life I’ve been surrounded by Christians. I’ve largely known what behaviours to expect from people and what values we might hold in common.

I went to a public high school but I was never great friends with my classmates. I worked at jobs with Christians and I went to a Christian university with Christians. My first meaningful experience with non-Christians was last summer working at a Tim Horton’s and the experience was mixed. Many coworkers were unequivocally friendly but others (who mostly worked later shifts) were a bit harder to connect with.

One of the things I realized from the latter group is that different kinds of people can have vastly different behaviours and values.

And now that I’ve moved from my insular community into the bigger world, I reflect on this revelation and I worry about how I’ll be treated and what will be expect of me. Or, more concerning, how do I know that I’ll be treated with dignity and respect?

If we all have different behaviours and values, then what’s to guarantee that the secular world will acknowledge my worth and treat me right? I don’t know but I’ve taken up this as a creed: “The measure of a man is his kindness.” If I can treat others with kindness, I can hold my head up high. I don’t know well that will be received but it will be my assurance of my own dignity when I can’t rely on reciprocated religious values.

Now my greatest hope would be that all my non-Christian readers read this and think “Pfft. What are you talking about? Most non-Christians are super nice!” And I do recall those people who worked the morning and afternoon shifts at Tim Horton’s, always smiling and encouraging each other. That was a vision of a world I’d gladly live in. But there are also unkind people and I’m not sure how I’ll respond.

I suppose one thing I can do is remember the words of the psalmist who wrote “Even though I walk through the shadow of the valley of death, I will not fear evil for you are with me.” And if I’m not afraid of them, I can afford to be kind to them. And if I’m kind, I’m sure I’ll at least make a few friends.


One thought on “The Measure of a Man

  1. Growing up, it seemed that everyone I knew was some sort of Christian or other. I lived, ate, slept, breathed Christianity all the time. Sure, I knew that we were all far from perfect and when one of my churches started breaking down on me, I began to see that the narrative I had been told was like a simple children’s version and that I really didn’t know much of anything at all. I had to learn to stop seeing everything in sacred vs secular, believer vs unbeliever and in such stark either/or contrasts. Some of the more interesting experiences for me is knowing that some of my co-workers don’t like some of the people who attend the church I used to attend. People who I had thought were perfectly decent seem to rub them the wrong way, as it were. Perhaps we have it all wrong, we’ve been so separate that we’ve failed to build friendships and connections for fear that it would harm our own spirituality, when the truth is that we’ve learned to love only those who are like us – just as the Pharisees of old did and we are in many ways more like them than like the guy our religion is named for.


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