“Rather we need to be exacting with ourselves regarding our integrity and motivation, and very generous in ascribing the best of motivations to the actions and efforts of others.” -Charles Ringma, Seize The Day with Dietrich Bonhoeffer I might have been in a mood. A few weeks ago I began a post I just couldn’t finish. It was nothing to horribly scandalous, but it did cause a twinge in my conscience nonetheless. This nonpunishable post was born out of a recent annoyance I have felt at something we all encounter, likely daily. It was concerning those pesky “than thous” that flit about us, on TV, in conversations, in social media, and even with close friends and family. “Than thou” used to be restricted to the realm of religiosity, as in “holier than thou,” but now you think of an area of life or current philosophy or lifestyle, and the than thous have found a very comfortable spot to nest. Among the “than thous” I seem to encounter (you may have others that come to mind) are healthier/more organic than thou, more of a foodie than thou, fitter than thou, greener than thou, more progressive, hip, or enlightened than thou, more creative than thou, and better overall parent than thou (although that last one has probably been around since there existed more than one family on this earth). And sadly, as much as I love the work of Brene Brown, (and I do), I wonder if we sometimes don’t also slip into more genuine/ “real” than thou and more compassionate than thou. Of course, as soon as I began mulling all these things over, and feeling, well, a bit smug, I had one of those looking in the mirror pointing a finger pointing back at me moments. What am I then? Less “than thou” than thou? And I had to stop writing and start really thinking this through. So where do these “than thous” come from? The more I ponder this, the more I think they actually begin in a beautiful place, maybe like weeds that pop out in a lush lovely garden. We all, I believe, have the potential for passion in us. And that passion manifests itself in different ways, maybe because of what we have been exposed to or educated about, maybe because of people we love and admire, maybe just because we are “wired” that way. So the passion grows and we get excited about it and it bubbles over so that it becomes part of many of our conversations. We want to share, we want others to understand, to see the beauty of the garden. I think where the stink comes in is, well, pride. Pride sneaking in once again. Pride causes us to say things like “Well, I would never…” or “I always…” and then pride gives way to judgement which says “How could anyone…?” and begins to view others as the unenlightened masses. And then, of course, there is the backlash, which I experienced in my own heart and mind: “Well, I would never say those things. I am not prideful.” Um. ok. So what to do? How do I rewrite this? Two things come to mind. One is to humbly suggest that all of us work to cultivate our passions, our gardens, while at the same time mind those weeds (or bugs, pick your metaphor). It is difficult, but not impossible, to bring those passions, those beliefs that come from deep in our souls to the table humbly, graciously, kindly. It is possible to pick up our heads, look around, and see the bounty of all that others are also bringing to the table. It is possible to stop talking (or typing) long enough to listen to someone else’s story, open up to the passion that dwells in someone else’s heart. And secondly, I walk away convicted that I can be guilty of missing the garden for the weeds. I can too easily be distracted by the tone and miss the heart behind it. I need to have eyes and ears to take in what others have to offer and drop the self-focused mindset that this is all about comparison (or frankly, all about me, and how I may or may not measure up). I need to be quiet, even in my mind, and allow the beauty of another’s heart penetrate my own. And so this is the post I wrote and finished. And this is the mindset, and the “heartset” I will (try to) keep.