Northeast Iowa – with its trout streams, rolling farmlands, and cliffs rising above the Mississippi River – is where I spent my childhood summers visiting grandparents and relatives. It is the place where, from the age of two, I was dubbed, “The ‘How Come’ Girl”. The name was given to me because of my intense, and no doubt, sometimes annoying, sense of curiosity.
So, in the spirit of my childhood self, I wondered why it was important to treat ourselves and others with significance. Further, given it simply seems like the right thing to do, I wondered if the question was even worthy of further inquiry. I decided it was.
So, I approached the question by looking at it through four lenses; spiritual, emotional, physical and intellectual. I came away believing we are literally designed and hard wired to need love and belonging and to foster the same in others.
I will cover the spiritual lens in this blog and will cover the other three lenses in a future blog. As a Christian my first stop to learn more about our significance as human beings and how we are to treat others was the Bible.
I can’t think of a more powerful message about our significance before God than His choice to sacrifice His son to be crucified and die for our sake.
There are multiple verses that tell us that we are made in the image and likeness of God, that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, and that God knows every hair on our heads. The definition of significance is literally “having notable value, importance and worth.” These verses are surely indicators of our inherent value and worth before God.
So assuming this worth; how are we to treat one another? Biblical examples “showing” us what it means to treat others as if they have notable value and worth abound.
This year as part of a bible study on the patriarchs I was struck by the story of Abraham and Sarah. You will remember that God promised them a child. Yet as they advanced into old age – well into their 90’s, they lost faith and Sarah decided to help God along a bit.
As was the custom at the time, Sarah told Abraham he should sleep with their servant Hagar so she could bear a child for them. Later when Sarah was 97 years of age, God fulfilled his word and gave Abraham and Sarah the promised child whom they named Isaac. Sarah, feeling resentment toward Hagar and her son, cast them out of their home into the desert saying, “Get rid of that slave woman, she will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac”. Out of food and water, fearful her child would die, Hagar sobbed in the desert. God heard the cries of Hagar and her son and sent an angel of God to her, telling her “Do not be afraid. God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.” It is said that she addressed God as “the living one who sees me”. God showed us that being seen and giving another person the feeling that they are seen is certainly one of the most foundational and potent ways to show someone that they are significant.
We are shown many more examples of treating people with significance through Jesus’ ministry where blind eyes were opened, the dead were raised, life threatening storms were commanded to stillness, and thousands were fed by the multiplication of a few fish and loaves of bread.
As a very goal and task driven person, no biblical example speaks to me so directly as the story of Martha and Mary. While traveling from village to village, Martha opened up her home to Jesus and his disciples. She worked on preparations for her guests. I imagine her getting food and drinks for her guests and making sure they were comfortable. Meanwhile, Mary sat at the Lord’s feet listening. Martha, the task master, complained to Jesus. Jesus said ”Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Jesus clearly taught us that being present with him or other people is more important that focusing on tasks.
Fortunately for me, I have been given many teachers who have also shown me how we should treat others. One example of such a teacher takes place in the small town of Excelsior, MN in a cafe.
My husband Tim would have described her as, “Meaner than a junkyard dog.” Can you believe that a person who was waitressing tables at a restaurant (a job I have done), with tips a major portion of her income, was treating those at our table like we were a nuisance?
I had set up a lunch with two of my best friends. My expectations were high because the cafe we chose is one of my favorites. After waiting much longer than we should have, I waved at the waitress to gain her attention. She scowled at me, came to the table and said in an irritated voice that she would get to us when she could. When taking the order she was not even bordering on rude. She was – well – mean.
I left, expressing my irritation by leaving no tip, something I rarely do. The group then split up to shop, deciding to meet after an hour. When we reconvened I could see my friend Kathy had not been shopping. After much prodding, she told us she had felt concerned about the waitress and had gone back to the cafe and told her, “I know you are having a bad day and I would like to give you a large tip to let you know things will get better.” Kathy’s assumption that the waitress was suffering and had pain in her life was born out when seeing what Kathy had done, she broke down, sobbing, hugging her, and telling her she had just discovered at 17 years old she was pregnant with no family support and no one to turn to. My friend Kathy took her number and promised she would be there for her. My friend “showed me” how to treat someone, a seemingly annoying person, with care and significance.
Every day we have an opportunity to show who God is by treating those we encounter as someone having notable value and worth
A CALL TO ACTION
Share Your Spiritual Wisdom
- Spiritual walks are informed in many different ways and have a variety of expression. I invite you to share how your spiritual walk has informed you about your and others significance and what that means in terms of our everyday actions. Send your comments to my website or if you have a story to share, contact me and I may feature your story on the site.
Show What It Means to Treat Ourselves and Others with Significance
- Reflect over the last month and consider how you are you treating yourself. Are you treating yourself as well as you would treat a family member or friend?
- Commit to one action this week to treat yourself as significant.
- Show the seemingly annoying, rude or irritating person that they are significant. Choose kindness and compassion like my friend Kathy did in the cafe example versus missing the mark as I did.