“I think we too are the people who, on the one hand, want to listen to Jesus, but on the other hand, at times, like to find a stick to beat others with, to condemn others. And Jesus has this message for us: mercy.”
Recently I was in a parent-teacher conference and we were talking about some behavior challenges in the class. I was playing the quintessential "of course, not my kid" parent and nonchalantly suggested that rather than correct the whole class, perhaps some public shaming of the prime instigators would do the trick. "You know, to make an example of the child," I suggested. The teacher gave me a polite head nod that communicated a very accurate truth, namely, I wouldn’t last one math period in her shoes. Walking out of the school, Tricia repeated my exact words, "public shaming?" she asked. "Worked when I was a kid," I said confidently walking to my car. Of course I was never publicly shamed because I was an angel. However, my confidence decreased a little while reading this Sunday’s Gospel with my men’s group. One of the guys shared a reflection he found inviting the reader to consider the positioning of different figures in the Scripture. For example, that Jesus was bent down on the ground, so that the woman caught in adultery would have seen him when she looked down in shame. As beautiful as it was to reflect on how the Lord meets us in our shame, my mind went to the other positioning in the story, "the scribes and Pharisees brought a woman…and made her stand in the middle." My casual suggestion of public shaming rang in my head and distracted me for the rest of the reflection time.
How often in my life or my leadership do I pull people’s mistakes into the spotlight and bring unneeded attention to them? In my quest to "teach someone a lesson," what lesson am I really teaching? Will my instruction bear fruit or will it teach someone how to be another Pharisee, pulling people’s shame "into the middle?" When people in my life make a mistake, what position do they find me in? Am I standing over them glaring down, or am I where they need me to be, where our Lord is, bending down looking up at them, reminding them of their dignity? We need to identify sin when we see it. We just need to make sure we don’t add to sin in the process. As we come to the end of Lent, how do we see our position with those in our families, our workplaces, our communities, and our Church? Prayers that your posture positions you closer to Christ this week.