I wonder how many of us have experienced a situation where we have been disappointed when meeting someone who didn’t live up to all the hype about them?
I am sure you know the kind of thing I am talking about. You hear so much about someone and how good or special they are and then when you meet them they simply don’t seem to live up to your expectations of them.
Or perhaps you have experienced situations where the opposite is true? Where the person far exceeded your expectations and all the stuff you had heard seems somehow unfair or inaccurate?
We do that in life don’t we? Formulate impressions, pictures, of people based on what others have said even before we have met that person.
Likewise, I think there are certain roles in life of which we formulate pictures and expectations based on our own previous experiences of other people who fulfilled the same or a similar role. ‘Tarring everyone with the same brush’ as my old granddad used to say.
(Trust me I have no idea why you would want to tar anyone really, but it has been suggested that the origin of the phrase seems to stem from the fact that if you painted certain people with tar you couldn’t really tell which one was which and thus both would have the same qualities.)
For example, if we have had bad experiences with police officers in the past we anticipate all police officers being that way. Or perhaps priests, or teachers, or door to door salesman, or street canvassers. Or perhaps it is a racial thing expecting all people of one country or another to act the same way.
It isn’t a nice thing to admit is it? That we assign character traits to someone based simply on previous experiences of some one else from a similar place or fulfilling a similar role? But, if we are honest. I think a lot of us are guilty of having done that sometime along the way.
And indeed doesn’t it all too often happen in respect of those of us who suffer mental health issues. Are we all not too often tarred with the same brush? Labelled and assigned potential character traits that we simply don’t have?
In truth it isn’t fair or helpful and in fact can rob us of so much in life. Especially when we respond to someone based not on who they are as an individual – on their own personal behavior or intentions – but on who someone else was as an individual and on that person’s behavior or intentions.
And what about where this can have such far reaching effects on us? What about where we are not doing this to another person but to God himself?
What if instead of seeing and getting to know God for who He really is we are really seeing Him and understanding Him (or misunderstanding Him as is too often the case) according to our experiences of our own earthly fathers or indeed the picture portrayed by some churches that we attended in the past.
Or even, and this is perhaps the saddest of them for me, according to how we have been treated by people claiming to know and represent God and yet demonstrating qualities which are so unlike Him?
God is our heavenly Father but He is not our mortal father. His love is perfect and immense and even when there are times in our lives – which there will be – when He seems so distant from us, He is never that far away.
Unfortunately, as is too often the case, in my experience or opinion, we tend to ascribe to God those earthly imperfections and sometimes poor qualities that our mortal fathers had or even those of other believers who have treated us badly.
But is that honest or fair? Fair to God and indeed fair to ourselves? That is the question that I think we need to ask ourselves.
Likewise I think we have to ask ourselves the question, when considering God, whether our difficulties – yes even those difficulties that we face as a result of our mental health challenges – and which seem to have been far too difficult for other, even other believers to see beyond or deal with, truly are too difficult for God to deal with?
I am imperfect and flawed and with many failings, but no mental health would stop me from loving my children and so if I in my imperfect flawed love can love like that how much more does God whose love is perfect love us beyond our issues?
Worth considering isn’t it?