By: G. J. Fortier

Oh sure, you know your family and friends … to a great degree but not completely. And you know your co-workers … as well as you can, given the time that you spend with them. You even know your neighbors, at least a little bit. But, I’m talking about that guy that flipped you the “bird” in traffic the other day for some slight, whether perceived or otherwise, that you inflicted upon him. Or the woman at the grocery store who muscled her way in front of you at the “15 items or less” checkout lane … when she clearly has more than 15 items! Or the person who’s tail-gating you in the fast lane (in Georgia, the law says that you must move right if you’re the slower vehicle anyway) and being quite “animated” in their zeal for you to get out of their way. What are these people thinking? Why do they get to be rude and inconsiderate and even abusive in their actions towards me and my family? What makes them so special?

Or, maybe you should be asking yourself, what are these people feeling?

Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor and evil speaking be put away from you with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:31-32

When you see someone at the mall who’s searching for some new clothes, do you ever wonder what burdens they’re carrying around with them? Whether someone in their family just died and what they’re really looking for is something to wear to the funeral? Or worse, they’re looking for clothes for their loved one to be buried in? Or, maybe they’re about to spend the last of their grocery money on an outfit for a job interview after having been unemployed for a year-and-a-half? What about that guy who flipped you off. Do you ask yourself if maybe he just lost his job and is on the way home to break the news to his family? Or the lady at the grocery store who cut in line ahead of you because she’s running late and needs to get home to fix a meal for a grieving family. And, what about that tailgater? Did you wonder of his son or daughter was just in a car accident, and they’re trying to get to the hospital to sign the necessary forms to allow for some lifesaving surgery … assuming that the child hasn’t already passed-away? And here’s an even better question. Are you supposed to? Is it your responsibility to figure out the motives of the people that you encounter whose behavior may not stand up against your high standards of what’s acceptable?

Okay, you can relax. As far as I’m concerned, the answer is … no. It’s not your job to try to understand why people do what they do, especially strangers. But, would it kill you to at least consider what they may be going through, instead of just how inconvenient it is for you to have to change lanes?

And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. Matthew 22: 39

As I write this, I can’t help but think of a video that we watched at the prayer breakfast a few months ago. It was produced by Chick-fil-A and it’s shown to every new employee as part of their initial training. The name of the video is Every life has a story, and I highly recommend that you find it on YouTube and spend the less-than three minutes it takes to watch it.

I used to think that all people were the same. That we all have the same problems and we all think … and therefore, handle them … in the same way. Boy, was I ever wrong, and it took me travelling half-way around the world to figure that out! I was sitting in a classroom with a group of young people at a university in Kamensk-Uralski, Russia, and I actually said the words—no matter where you go in the world, people are just people. The fact of the matter is, people are different. Whether you’re an INTJ according to the Briggs-Meyers personality assessment, green (okay?) according to another, or a rodent (seriously?) by still another, we all have differences in our behavior that others may not easily understand. And we all handle different situations … well … differently. Some of us cry, some clam up, some blow up and some act out. But, whatever behavior we’re confronted with, remember, the only thing that we can control is our attitude. In other words; if somebody is in a hurry, get out of the way … but if you can help them, you probably should.

For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more. Hebrews 8:12

Recently, I attended another prayer breakfast and was blessed with the testimony of a brother who I, frankly, knew nothing about. I’d seen him at the breakfast before, many times in fact, but I couldn’t say with any confidence that I’d ever had a conversation with him. And, believe me, I would have never connected the man to his story if I hadn’t heard it from his mouth that morning. He had been carrying the burden of what he had experienced in war around with him for nearly fifty years! And these were the kind of stories that would give most of the men that I know nightmares. I really don’t feel the need to go into the details here, but the images that reside inside his head could only be described as horrific. I now have to ask myself how many people out there have similar stories to tell? How many suffer with memories that can never be forgotten? How many feel the guilt—no matter how justified—of having taken any number of lives while in the service of their country? His story, while extreme, may not be as uncommon as some of us believe … or even consider when we encounter people in our daily lives. The bottom line is, we have no idea what people are going through daily. And if we can’t make it any better for them, let’s at least not make things worse by reacting poorly to the coarse behavior of others.

Today is the day. Now is the time. The battle is on!

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from Heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NIV)

G. J. Fortier is a member of IronMen Ministries and of First Baptist Church, Centerville, Georgia. Look for his Christian Military thriller, Mirrored Man: The Rob Tyler Chronicles, Book 1 and Reflections of the Mirrored Man: The Rob Tyler Chronicles book 2 on Amazon for Kindle and paperback. Or visit his website at www.mirroredman.com.