Recently I discovered myself “othering.” Not the normal othering (that of making people feel less than), but the othering of those suffering from some horrid life event. A woman I know had a son take an overdoes of pills. I found myself explaining (to myself) why my kids had it so together and why this could never happen to me. I saw it in law school too. Those of us who didn’t flunk out explained why we were different. Those of us who stayed and didn’t quit explained our decisions differently. Even my escaping drug addiction is explained because I was different.
I had read of this phenomenon before. People pull away when someone is diagnosed with cancer or has a catastrophe. Maybe not at first, but they do. Oh no, so-and-so was raped because she didn’t lock her door when she came home. I would never leave my door unlocked. Oh no, so-and-so was involved in an auto accident because she took her eyes off the road. Thank God I don’t text and drive or ______ and drive. And then we hide our heads in the sand, and we distance ourselves from the victim, to give ourselves a sense of false security. 1 Timothy 2:1 says we are to pray for one another “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people.” We are to intercede for one another and not hide from one another.
And then again, maybe I’m not so different. Maybe God just has a different path for me. Acts 10:33 says “Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism.” Yes, God is not favoring me because I lock my door or keep my eyes on the road. God, as our creator, knows what we need. God knows our individual needs to make us over into his image. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4).
God knows what I need to become a mature Christian. He knows the trials and tribulations I can endure. I have withstood rape as an adult, being abused as a child, drug addiction, etc. Another woman I know has endured brain cancer. My friend is right now sitting in a hospital room praying for her son. Others I know have seemingly had an easier path, but they didn’t need the hard paths I did. But what we all need, today, right now, is the ability to quit othering and start empathizing. We need to be there for one another. Ephesians 6:18 says “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.”
Matthew 25:34-46 says “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
Obviously, othering is a sin. So today, stop it (I’m saying this to myself also. Be a Matthew 25 woman or man. Pray, empathize, but quit othering and find someone to love. Be a sheep not a goat.