I am sure you have heard the expression “Beer goggles.” It is a phrase used for people who have drank too many beers and then as they look at others (mainly to hook up with for the night) as more beautiful or desirable than reality. Basically, the more beer you consume the better looking everyone becomes. There was a country song about this a few years back, the music video was hilarious.
As I was walking through the mall the other day, I found myself wearing a different kind of glasses. I was wearing people goggles. It was at this moment I realized that I still have work to do in the way I view people. I love watching people. I could sit and watch people for hours. People are so interesting, funny, quirky, and sometimes just plain mesmerizing. To go along with my love for people watching, I was gifted with a pretty good eye to read people too. Amy loves to people watch with me because I can peg someone pretty quick and the commentary about that person has her rolling on the floor. But what I have discovered is that my people goggles sometimes have pharisee lenses.
Pharisees were the religious leaders of the day when Jesus was ministering on earth. They followed the Law of Moses with a fervency. And if that wasn’t good enough, they would add additional laws to the original laws to keep the original law in place. It was so difficult to live by. Jesus confronted them by saying that their law was impossible for man to live by. Truth be told, that is exactly what the pharisees wanted. They wanted the standard so high that only they could reach it. They wanted to be considered better than everyone else. That is where my people goggles come back into play. If I am not careful I will look at people based on them meeting my standards. And yes, my standards are high for you and pretty lenient for me. If you catch yourself thinking, what’s wrong with that. Keep reading. (You might be a Pharisee and not know it!)
I believe we look at people with at least 3 types of criteria unwittingly.
Let me explain each one and see if you are looking at people the wrong way. Decisions. These are the decisions that others have made that we think are wrong or we disagree on. For example: Neck tattoos. I have no problem with tattoos (although I don’t have one nor want one.) But I feel that there are a lot of good places for a tattoo other than the neck. Nothing screams I have been to prison like a neck tattoo. (see how easy it is to judge based on appearances.) Clothes choices are another one. Modesty was really important to my family growing up and is to my own family. People choose to dress themselves poorly and I judge accordingly. Pants too low (and all the senior adults say, “dang right, pull ’em up). Pants too High!!! (All the senior adults say, “Huh, what did he say?”) Both are equally inappropriate. You should never be able to get chest hair stuck in your zipper. I’m just saying, LOL!!! The list goes on for all the ways that we look at people because their decisions are different from ours. Confession time. I walked into a local lumber store to buy a part the other day. I saw an older lady dressed in what I assume were mens clothing, baggy shorts and baggy t-shirt. She was holding a little boy who was a little younger than my son. She barely had a tooth in her head that wasn’t rotten. In my judgemental mind, I immediately thought she might be on meth. More on this in a minute…
Second way we look at people is differences. This is where you look at people with a judgmental tone based on how different they are from you. This is the comparison game we play where we size each other up. He has bigger biceps, her hair is trashy, she is much thinner than I, did he intend for his ear lobs to have that big of a hole in it, or it could be as severe as skin color, nationality, or sexual preference. There are so many ways to look at people and put them down in our mind based solely on differences. But who is to say we are right? Usually…I am.
Last way we look at people with pharisee people goggles is directions. This usually deals with how we were raised. I was raised in a conservative Baptist home in Kentucky (The south, but not the deep south.) Although not terribly intentional, there were unresolved racial undertones in people’s conversations around me. The Mason Dixon line was referenced often. There was always a bias toward certain people and against others. I remember when Bosnians moved into the area of Bowling Green. There was hatred and poor language choices hurled in their direction. I live in Texas now, where the Mason Dixon line here is on the border with Mexico. How we look at people is deeply rooted in the environment in which we were raised. I am sure that none of you were raised to be racist, sexist, or the like, but if you look closely you might find some evidence of some pretty awful thinking about people.
Back to the possible Meth addict at the lumber company. As I looked at this family with my people goggles, reading them as well as judging (I am just being honest, it’s the only way to move ahead in recovery.) The Holy Spirit reminded me of passage of Scripture that I had just studied in my small group. It was Philippians 2:3-4, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” I was so convicted. Immediately, I put away my people goggles with pharisee lenses. It was not my standard that they needed to meet. I realized that my people goggles were broken and skewed. The way I was looking at people was hateful and was not at all God honoring. I was ashamed at the way I had allowed my thoughts to be so vicious. I had to repent for not seeing people with eyes of grace.
This is such a difficult process sometimes. It seems the more grace I receive, the less I offer to others. I do not claim to be “captain Christian” (my small group will understand that comment) because I get life wrong more than I should. Jesus loves people, all people, no matter their decisions, differences, or directions. He even loves those who reject Him. He laid down His life for sinners like me. I try to remind myself of this all the time when I begin to get my people goggles out. Jesus died for them too. I may not agree with their life choices but they are in need of the same grace that I am constantly in need of. So the next time you begin to look at someone and begin to cast a hateful glances their way. Remember to put on your people goggles with the grace lenses on. You may even begin seeing people the way God sees them, as objects of grace and unconditional love. Just this very aspect alone would do wonders in the faith community, not to mention the world around us.
How do you look at people who aren’t like you? I would love to hear from you. Maybe you have some thoughts different from mine and that’s OK too. Please share them anyway.
Grace and Peace to you as you begin to allow the Holy Spirit to change the way you look at people through eyes of compassion and grace. Who knows, you may even begin to like people who are different from you. But that is another topic for another day…You may not be able to change the world, but you can change you and your outlook toward others.
P.S. I am sorry if I offended any Pharisees for referencing beer!