Humanity, Relationships, and Judging Others

By Harvey Hook, Founder at Relā

“We ought to judge others by their humanity not by their behavior.”

– Dr. John M. Perkins

John Perkins left an indelible mark on Columbus during his 5 day stay in October.  One of his most memorable remarks came as he, Rita, and I sipped smoothies at the airport McDonald’s in advance of his return flight to Jackson, Mississippi. He said, “We ought to judge others by their humanity, not by their behavior.” The truth of his words are a critical key if you and I are to cross the bridge from fractured coexistence to community, unity, and progress.

In other words: when we affirm the humanity of others, there is hope. It’s in our common reflection of God that hope exists. When we judge behavior alone, we reduce people to labels: “bigot,” “liberal,” “conservative.” We put people in a box, put that box on a shelf, and never deal with their humanity again.

However, underlying his 8 separate appearances with 2,500 people, were three principles Dr. Perkins offered our city if we want to build a bridge that affirms the dignity of all. Dr. Perkins speaks from a lifetime of experience with urban poverty, and when we unpack his principles and apply them to our lives and where we live, we discover the path we’ve been looking for.

Relocation: To effectively transcend differences that separate us racially, socially, politically, and economically, we must live among those we serve. We must become one of them. Their needs must become our needs. We must feel their pain.

While I don’t envision a mass exodus of suburbanites moving to the inner-city, I believe each of us can relocate our minds, hearts, ears and feet, to intentionally engage others different than us.  When we hear their story, and see the world through their eyes, we come to know them in deep and meaningful ways.

How is it we’ve all been to the seminar, read the book, and agree with Stephen Covey’s Principle #5: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood,” but find it so hard to do? I meet regularly with men different than me racially, politically and socially – for the singular purpose of knowing them. It’s one step I’ve taken. What step will you take?

Reconciliation: Before we can change the world, we must change ourselves. We must model the kind of relationships into which we want to invite others. To restore relationships, we must become the relationship which removes fear and creates harmony.

Stephen Covey’s Habit #2 states: “We must begin with the end in mind.” I will modify that and say, “We must be the end that creates the new beginning.” Some steps to consider are: confess to another, forgive another, help another, love another.

Redistribution: We must create on-ramps of access and opportunity for everyone to participate in the free enterprise marketplace. And we must do so in ways that equip people to take ownership of their own development while introducing them to the tools of responsible stewardship. The earth does not belong to us but to God, and we model His love for us when we empower, equip, and join others in their success.

As Dr. Perkins likes to say:

“The answer does not lie in giving a man a fish, so he can feed his family for one day.

Nor does it lie in teaching a man to fish so he can feed his family for a lifetime.

The answer lies in introducing the man to the person who owns the pond!

So, he can have access to all the benefits generated in our economy.”

What pond do you own, and how can you empower others to gain its access?

Want more? If so, pick up a copy of “With Justice for All” by Dr. John Perkins.

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