I accompanied my mother to the local Social Security Administration office. I had a good idea what I was in for. The reputation of these types of government agencies is well known and well deserved. But I wasn’t quite ready for the insight I would receive.
We arrived forty minutes before the office opened, to find a well formed and growing line. By the time the office opened the line had made the corner of the building, setting the tone for what would be a tense and taxing wait.
The first sign of life in the office was the federal officer who came out to greet everyone. Her warm “good morning,” quickly gave way to a military tone, as she began barking orders and making sure we knew that she would not take any questions. She assured us that any questions we had would be answer in her instructions, yet when she finished, several people tried, in vain, to approach with questions.
She seemed angry at our inability to find our answers in her instructions. And she touch off the latent anger in us. I sensed that our mutual anger was too hot to be the result of our present encounter. It just poked the bear.
It lead me to wonder…..why are we so angry? Why is it so near the surface? Why does driving to work send us into a rage? Why do we wear a perpetual frown, that says, ”I’m no easy win?”
Because every insult, injurious tone, harsh word, or dig, is an assault upon our dignity. Every unwelcome look, nasty joke, and subtle put-down is a stab at our human dignity. And in our culture the assault is constant. Like the tiny brook that produces the canyon. It may be subtle, but it’s always there.
Like the mother with the impatient toddler waiting in line who snaps, “No! Stand your butt up.” Or the Social Security officer barking orders to mostly senior citizens and refusing to take questions. Like the way the man in line talked about his ex-wife, calling her a #$@&%* so we all could hear. Assaulting her dignity and ours. We all witnessed the assault when the young employee called the silver-haired elderly lady “sweet heart”, with the obvious stench of condescension. They don’t all mean harm, but causing it nonetheless. Assaulting the dignity of men.
The constant assault is having a silent affect on us. It often happens below the conscience. Though we are often unaware of it or unable to explain it, we feel it. Making us angry, normalizing our rudeness, perpetuating the problem. The assault shows in our faces. We are ashamed, afraid, bullied, browbeaten, punch-drunk, and angry. The emptiness in our eyes cry out for compassion and civility. We yearn to be treated with respect, but find little. There were no smiles, no laughter. With every simple act of insensitivity the world grows meaner.
We all share this innate dignity that’s under assault, whether we are dignified or not. We are all indued with dignity by our creator. We are created in His image. Therefore, every assault upon the dignity of men is an assault upon the image and glory of God. In fact, that’s what this is all about. Though we wrestle not against flesh and blood, flesh and blood is often a casualty.
How we treat our fellow man is a reflection of our thoughts about his creator. In an angry world it’s easy to join the assault parade. But we are left in this mean world to reflect the glory of God for the good of men. It’s amazing what just a smile and words full of grace will do. It is an act of worship to treat people with dignity.