Monday, July 18, 2011

Right and Wrong

"난 형이야!!!" My oldest son cries.  Literally it means "I'm the older brother," but figuratively it means, "I'm in charge and know what's right for you!"  And sometimes Big Brother really is right; Little brother will really get hurt if he climbs that rock or tree or banister.  And other times, Big Brother is not so right; flies are not bees and won't bite you; citronella stickers will protect you from mosquitoes, but you don't need one for ghosts; and you will not float away after you have a really big fart.

I recently watched an amazing talk by Kathryn Schulz on being wrong.  And it mirrors the situation above.  One thing she points out is that, until you know you are wrong, being wrong feels JUST LIKE being right.  You can't tell until reality hits you in the face.

For example, when we first moved to Korea, I almost went to war with my in-laws over hiccups.  Yes, hiccups.  You see, Little Brother was 9 weeks old.  9-week-olds hiccup.  They just hiccup.  It's part of development.  Their lungs and diaphragm aren't in sync.  I believe What To Expect When You're Expecting says something like, "Kids don't die from the hiccups.  It's part of growing up.  Leave them alone, and they will go away."

Koreans do not see hiccups that way.  No, there must be a root cause and it must be remedied.  FYI-natural human development is not one of these root causes.  They also do not believe in the same remedies we do, but this is not about that.  The most common of these root causes is being cold.  So when Little Brother was hiccuping ad nauseum in 90 degree heat, naturally he needed more clothing.  And when his body was covered with heat rash and the child was sobbing uncontrollably, it must have been caused by something else.  Finally, another halmoni intervened and said, "He's dying of heat!  Lay off!" (Thank God for halmonis!  This halmoni is one of my particular favorites.)

But another root cause of hiccups, according to Koreans, is having just urinated.  That was always halaboji's question:  "Did he pee?"  And you know what? He had! In Little Brother's case, this was right!  Now, it took a long time for me to get over myself enough to check and see if halaboji was right (and if it had been the other halmoni, Little Brother might still be hiccuping), but when I was able to question if somebody else might be right, then I actually found part of the cause of Little Brother's problem (and saved Little Brother from a lot of diaper rash as well!).

You see, as I am spending a lot of time in a different culture as well as preparing to send kids back to school, I am facing a lot of backlash about right and wrong from all directions.  And in this case, the backlash from Christians is the worst.

Yes, God gave us the ten commandments.  Yes, there are commands in the Bible.  Yes, Jesus came to fulfill the law and not destroy it.

But I also think he came to show us we were wrong.  Not wrong as in "we have sinned."  Yes, we have sinned.  But I think he came to show us we were wrong as in "we haven't got a clue."

Just think about the sermon on the mount:
Think you haven't murdered?  Have you ever been angry?  Have you ever called a name?  Same deal.
Think you haven't committed adultery?  Really?  Ever said, "Man, s/he's hot!"?  Same deal.
Think you can help your neighbor improve?  Have you checked the plank in your own eye?

I keep going back and looking, and I can't find Jesus calling anyone a sinner but the people who thought they were sinless.  Sure, he called out, "Repent!" and people listened because THEY KNEW THEY HAD A PROBLEM!

It's when we think we don't that we have trouble.  And, oh, I have trouble a lot of the time.  I thank God for giving me a husband with an awesome BS meter and a super low tolerance for the stuff.  I miss him terribly and can't wait to be back home with him.

But that will take me away from people I love, whose ways are not my ways but are not necessarily wrong ways.  Every day here teaches me about love--how hard it can be but how much it is worth it.

And it teaches me about my savior who is love, who teaches me daily that if the rule doesn't feel like loving, then perhaps I haven't understood the rule.  And it teaches me about humility.  The drunk guys at the local grocery love to laugh at me.  And they are right; I am usually wrong.  Of course, I am not too fond of them when they laugh, particularly when they call out to a friend who missed the excitement, "Did you see that?  Her mother-in-law said that was the wrong kind of noodle!  Hahaha!  She didn't know about the noodles!"  They don't mean anything, but it is a little hard to take in the moment.

But mostly it teaches me to accept brokenness, that loving from a broken place is more welcome than loving from a perfect one, because when we acknowledge our brokenness, when we are open, we grasp the opportunity to accept one another and to become whole.

Finally, I leave you with the words of Birdia Tak Wai Chan
posted on (And listen to this talk!  It is perhaps my best spent 20 minutes in a very long time--cuddling my babies aside.)

Jan 5 2011: i think she may have found Tao accidentally:

"To be whole, let yourself break.
To be straight, let yourself bend.
To be full, let yourself be empty.
To be new, let yourself wear out.
To have everything, give everything up.

Knowing others is a kind of knowledge;
knowing yourself is wisdom.
Conquering others requires strength;
conquering yourself is true power.
To realize that you have enough is true wealth.
Pushing ahead may succeed,
but staying put brings endurance.
Die without perishing, and find the eternal.

To know that you do not know is strength.
Not knowing that you do not know is a sickness.
The cure begins with the recognition of the sickness.

Knowing what is permanent: enlightenment.
Not knowing what is permanent: disaster.
Knowing what is permanent opens the mind.
Open mind, open heart.
Open heart, magnanimity."

Peace :)

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