I remember watching the film, Elephant Man when I was younger and being deeply disturbed by John Hurt’s portrayal of a severely disfigured man living in Victorian London. The treatment of John Merrick by his fellow man moved me to tears. But what haunted me most was hearing the cry from the depths of this man’s soul to be engaged with, not as a freak, but as a human being!
Deep down, I believe that this is the cry of each one of us – that there is something within every human being that yearns for recognition of our humanity from others.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently after another interesting encounter with someone from my ex-church. This person had taken offence at something I had done and had contacted my husband about it. Now I happen to have a very low view of triangulation so I made this person a friendly offer to meet with them so they could discuss their issues with me… with me!
I explained that their approach de-humanised me – treating me as if I was a problem to be dealt with, not a fellow human being to be engaged with, but that I was quite willing to engage relationally with them regarding their problem.
However, this person was not willing to sit down over a coffee (like two mature Christ-followers) and share their concerns with me about my perceived behaviour. And yet they continued (several times) to try to engage my husband over the issue!
Anyway, this incident re-ignited my ponderings over how are we called we treat those we call brothers and sisters and how it works out in reality. Do our words and actions make others feel validated as human beings or do they end up feeling as if they are an issue to be addressed or a problem to be solved?