The other day I was talking with someone from the church and she was asking about someone else from the church, someone she doesn't know. She asked me to describe her in one word. One word?! I paused and thought. I tried to think of words that might be appropriate, words that might suffice. Well...? I'm thinking. One word? Yeah. I don't think I can do one word. Why not? I'm a preacher. I use words, it's my art. I don't think I could describe anyone in one word.
And the more I thought about it, I couldn't do it. There was no one word that was sufficient for describing that woman, or anyone I could think of. I couldn't describe myself in one word. I'm afraid that if we can describe anyone in just one word that we don't actually know that person. None of us is so flat in our personhood that one word is sufficient for telling any kind of real truth about us. Even my two year old daughter has more life, more vibrancy, and more personality than could be contained in just one word. She is funny. She's sweet. She's smart. She's independent. She's adventurous. She's curious. She's beautiful. She's precious. She's energetic. She is all of those things and no one word is sufficient to capture her big personality, even though it's bound up in a little body.
And yet, as impossible as this task is, we do it all the time with people we don't know. Or maybe people we do know well, but simply don't like. We want to summarize them in one word to keep them bound by the hurt they've imposed or the injustice that is served.
Think about it. Who do you characterize with just one word?
The crazy one?
Who else? How have you narrowed your view and understanding of that person? What parts of his/her character are you failing to see? Refusing to see?
What would change in the dynamic of your relationship if you were willing to see the bigger picture?
I know that my challenge often lies in needing to allow myself to feel greater compassion and spend more time with those that burden my heart. Not that I never do this, just that when I'm tired or frustrated or weary, it's easier to turn a blind eye when it's that ____________ instead of the whole person.
Struggling with this "one word" inquiry reminds me to look with eyes wide open. It challenges me to see the whole person, not the summary of a person who can easily be dismissed or forgotten.