We're all a bit crazy
"Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you might have against one another" (Colossians 3:13)
Paul writes this in a beautiful section of Colossians 3 where he outlines how believers live as being ‘raised with Christ’. We are to ‘put off’ behaviours which belong to our earthly nature and instead ‘put on’ the godly virtues of ‘compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience’ (v.12). Paul then speaks about bearing with one another and forgiving others. Paul is speaking specifically about bearing with and forgiving other believers.
But this injunction does follow a series of virtues we should adopt regardless of who we’re dealing with because this is the kind of person we are now ‘in Christ’. Hence we are to be kind, humble, and gentle regardless of the context, meaning that we are also to be the kind of person who bears with others. Thus Paul encourages us to have higher tolerance of annoying and difficult people. We are to be kind, patient and gentle with other people - we put up with others. We should bear with people who don’t quite work the way we do, or approach problems in the same way, or who see things differently. We should bear when those around us let us down or make mistakes. Bearing with others becomes more challenging when we’re confronted with rank incompetence or inappropriate behaviour, but bearing with others is different to tolerating inappropriateness.
I also think that as a culture we don’t tend to bear with one another very well. We live in a hyper-critical world where everything is assessed, measured and reviewed. We have high expectations and are very critical of others when things go wrong. For example, in restaurant reviews, if there is one slight problem: the toast is burnt or the eggs aren’t done right and suddenly it’s a 1 or 2 star review. It’s hard to bear with one another in our hyper-critical world with high expectations.
As I pondered ‘bearing with one another’, I was ironically helped by something that atheist philosopher Alain de Botton said in a fascinating talk on love and relationships. He was critical of the influential notion, popular today, which claims that people are basically good and ‘angelic by nature’. De Botton says that this view of people is ‘highly troubling for relationships’. Alternatively he speaks positively about appreciating the Christian idea of the sinfulness of each person. He says "It’s far better to insist that all of us in various ways are ... deeply crazy. We are all warped, distorted in very distinctive ways…. This is a fundamental piece of knowledge which we should be taking with us into relationships with a big warning sign over us".*
In his idiosyncratic way De Botton thoroughly endorses the Christian view of the world. He sees that if we appreciate everyone as ‘crazy’ (or sinful) it will actually help us have better expectations in our relationships. De Botton is advocating the Christian view way which accepts that our friends and colleagues aren’t perfect - they’re ‘crazy’ in some sense. In fact we’re all a bit crazy. This view of the world can help calm us down when people at work make a mistake or do things differently to how I would and therefore annoy us. This is because they’re a bit crazy. This view can help give us some perspective when the egg isn’t perfect - yes, they’re a bit crazy today. It will also help us be a little more gentle, kind and humble.
There will be times when relationships become so toxic that crazy can become insanity. In these cases we need to still bear with one another, but also take appropriate action. Yet helpfully, the doctrine of sin (or crazyness) helps us set up reasonable and realistic expectations of workplace relationships and it can help us to be one who does bear with one another in gentleness and humility.
This article was originally posted by Salt & Light Australia