As we approach the Christmas season, I ponder our humanity...our sameness. Too often we become divided by observing and obsessing over our differences, and this can be especially true of those with whom we do not share life perspective or paradigm. Suddenly, and often unintentionally, our fellow humans become "they." "They" of the other political party. "They" of another race. "They" from a different country. "They," the poor and needy. "They" who have been trafficked or exploited. You see, this division can arise even out of our sympathies. From my personal experience with working with dear ones who have been sexually exploited, "they" neither need nor desire the sympathies of fellow humans. While certainly most of us can never truly understand the horrors of sexual exploitation (and nor is it at all helpful to try to pretend we can!), we do know what it's like to be human.
We know what it's like to feel different, to feel shame. Whether we desire to feel extraordinary, special, or simply normal, we know what it's like to crave acceptance. We know what it's like to feel the ache of loneliness and the sorrow of loss. Similarly, we know what it's like to cover, exaggerate, hide, or numb our pain; our vulnerability. I submit to you that each one of us could probably stand to both extend and receive grace in this area this Christmas season and beyond. In the same vein, we know what it's like to simply need a comforting hug, a reassuring smile, or an excuse to laugh. The thing is, "they" need these, too. Some of my most treasured memories of working with women exploited by the sex industry involve hugs, inside jokes, and much laughter.
Friends, I'm not suggesting I get all these things right. In fact, many times, I've gotten them very wrong. What I know, however, is we are far more likely to lovingly engage with those we see as similar to us, and we are far more likely to remain distant from those we view as different. Are there differences? Yes. Absolutely. Perhaps we will further investigate those differences in another post. Because let's be honest, we do need to engage in those hard discussions as well. But, let us at least begin with our humanity, our sameness. Perhaps from this place, a place of seeing the "they" as "we," we can approach our fellow humans with love.