I love getting my hair cut. Not because it always feels great to have the split ends removed and to have an inch or so trimmed off, giving my hair my bounce and body. (Okay, I am beginning to sound like a commercial for hair products!)
I love getting my hair cut because of the conversations I have with my hairdresser—conversations that go beyond what conditioner to use or how to tame frizz. The conversations we have are conversations we all should be having. They are the conversations about life, love and faith. They are conversations about what it is that makes us who we are. Yesterday I had one such conversation with my hairdresser.
As her scissors worked their magic we got to talking about respect, more like the lack of respect we see towards one another. We got to talking about how no one is addressed anymore as Mr. or Mrs. or Miss. Rather first name basis is now a thing for strangers and casual acquaintances alike. We then went on to share experiences in schools and churches where often titles as Dr., Prof., Rev. and Pastor aren’t used much either.
Perhaps that is why I have such a fondness for rural ministry as it seems in such a setting there are still remnants of a time gone by where folks are still addressed as Mr., Mrs., Miss, Dr., and Prof. I recall many times an adult correcting a child that I was not “Donna” but “Pastor Donna.” At first I was surprised at the correction as I have never seen that happen till serving a little rural church in upstate New York. It was refreshing. But lately, we got to wondering what happened to the use of such identifiers.
Now this conversation wasn’t a gripe session. Far from it. This conversation was more in line of two people trying to make sense of the horrific violence in our world without having to speak of such violence, because how much more can our broken hearts take by once again trying to discern the shootings that have taken more black lives. Yes, I am making the point that these men were of color. Because if we just say “lives” and if we argue against the “Black Lives Matter” slogan, stating that “ALL” lives matter, then we are not being realistic as to how great the problem of race still is in our country. We are fooling ourselves in thinking we have nothing to do with it.
I don’t know. Maybe it was easier for us to speak in code and focus on the umbrella topic of “respect” then having to really dive deeply into the ugly, harsh realities of our world. But maybe we have to dive deep into the muck before we can even think about bopping our heads up to the safe, serene surface we so desperately seek.
It was then my hairdresser said, “How do we expect people to respect one another when we don’t even respect ourselves?”
I had to pause and ponder. She was on to something here. Could it be humanity’s brokenness has gotten to the point where we are lashing out at one another? Could it be the stressors of living are finally making us snap? Could it be we are so unhappy with ourselves that the only way to have some sort of pleasure is to look at another as lesser than and to treat another as lesser than?
I’m not sure. I’m just sharing the thoughts I’m encountering as I dive into the muck, hoping to learn something that will bring me back to the clear, serene surface.
My hairdresser’s words stayed with me much longer than the smooth, blowout I left the salon with. As my hair quickly reverted to its natural state of waves and frizz, I wondered what did God have to say about “respect”?
Remembering a question from my ordination exams long ago which asked about the role of authority, respect, treating one another, etc., I knew to begin my search by turning to 1 Peter. And there it was (the following are excerpts from 1 Peter 2, as presented in The Message):
Make the Master proud of you by being good citizens. Respect the authorities, whatever their level; they are God’s emissaries for keeping order. It is God’s will that by doing good, you might cure the ignorance of the fools who think you’re a danger to society. Treat everyone you meet with dignity. Love your spiritual family. Revere God.
Respect for others.
Respect for self.
Respect in general.
It seems to me that it begins with us first respecting God. It seems to me we need to remember the earliest command in the Mosaic law in which Jesus highlighted beautifully how it is lived out when he told the parable of The Good Samaritan.
It goes something like this:
A lawyer knowing the Mosaic law intimately asks Jesus, “Teacher (notice, the respectful title given to Jesus), what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
And Jesus reminded him of the law, “Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and love your neighbor as well as you do yourself.”
Notice the “love yourself” thing that is linked to the love your neighbor thing.
But then the lawyer asks, “Who is my neighbor?”
Could it be the lawyer knows he is guilty of not loving everyone? Could it be he is hoping Jesus will say specifically who you can and cannot love and still be good with God?
It’s a good question that I am going to let linger there without an answer. You ponder it. But before you do, first ask yourself the respect question.
For my hairdresser was on to something when she asked, “How can we respect others when we don’t even respect ourselves?”
Well, thanks for entertaining my thoughts for today. I have another hair appointment in six weeks. So stay tuned for more Salon Theology 101.
This was written before the news of the shootings in Dallas that have left five police officers dead. Prayers for all who mourn this day. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.