Valuing Those Who Devalue

“Well, don’t worry! I’m not going to do what you think I’m going to do, which is FLIP OUT! But let me just say, as I ease out of the office I helped build — sorry, but it’s a fact — that there is such a thing as manners. A way of treating people… These fish have manners! They have manners. In fact. They’re coming with me!” – Jerry Maguire 


The flight attendant was demonstrating the usual pre-flight safety instructions, when she paused and continued in a much firmer voice. “It is important that everyone understands, verbal or physical abuse toward any person on this aircraft will not be tolerated. And any person who engages in this behavior will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of law and may result in permanent expulsion from this airline.” 

And my first thought was, when did we become this kind of people? 


No sooner had I walked through the doors into the doctor’s office when I was confronted with a large sign: 

 • Masks to be worn at all times• Abusive language toward any personnel will not be tolerated, and law enforcement will be notified• Aggressive and or physical actions toward any personnel will not be tolerated, and law enforcement will be notified • Please leave immediately if you believe you will not be able to abide by these requests 

And my first thought was, when did we become this kind of people? 


These are just two of the numerous vignettes in my recent experience with places of business, organizations and institutions that have had to be blatantly clear about behavioral expectations. 


When did we become this kind of people? Devoid of restraint, lacking in manners, showing no respect for others. I would suggest it begins when we see individuals as holding no value. You think, act, look, hold a different opinion than mine so you hold no value for me. And as such, I will treat you accordingly. And yet, ironically the folks who are choosing to behave badly are not devoid of compassion. They are likely flying with or toward loved ones. They are in the doctor’s office or at a school board meeting because of someone they love. They know love. 


So what might be the antidote to those who are treating you or others as if you have no value. A great mentor once told me, “Conflict can often be the greatest challenge to staying steadfast in our core values of how we treat others.” Even in the midst of being devalued, the key is to continue to respond in a way that demonstrates a basic respect for the dignity of others.  


When did we become the kind of people who required warnings about the consequences of behavior that devalues another? The history of humanity is filled with narratives of individuals devaluing others. And it is also filled with individuals who made the choice to embrace the inherent value of respecting the dignity of every human being. As theologian and Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister encourages, “Everywhere there are people who, despite finding themselves mired in periods of national disruption or personal marginalization refuse to give up the thought of a better future or give in to the allurements of a deteriorating present. They never lose hope that the values they learned in the best of times or the courage it takes to reclaim their world from the worst of times are worth the commitment of their lives

3 thoughts on “Valuing Those Who Devalue”

  1. When did we become these types of people?
    The people that devalue others?
    I would submit that we always have been these people, we just have a temporary blip in the intensity of the verbal anger on a societal level. Further, the current blip is almost insignificant on a historical scale.
    Devaluation follows devaluation. Anger follows anger, unless we intercede in the process to reconcile the issue about which the anger stems. That process of reconciliation is what we are called to do as members of Christ.
    Devaluation happens when we selfishly assert that our belief is more valid/supported/”Christian” than another’s belief. Subsequent actions following the belief, whether rude, civil, polite which denigrates the other person (not sharing the same belief) are seen as justified. When the victors see the outcome that the desire, they deem that actions justified. A Machievellian/Alsinskian view of the ends justifies the means.
    We have numerous examples of more than just rude behavior in our history. We have seen recent and more remote racial riots (Ferguson, Minneapolis, …), economic riots (G8 convention sites) where people who feel devalued have destroyed property and the events have led to loss of life. “We” historically view the riots of the civil rights movement as justified. “We” remain split on the justification of more recent racial riots. “We” view the G8 economic riots as “unjustified” but “we” celebrate the economic riot of the Boston Tea Party.
    “We” is all of us. “We” who chose to view history solely in regards to our perspective. “We” who devalue other people’s opinions in respect to our own. “We” who act out of frustration to devaluation. “We” who judge others by their inappropriate actions to inappropriate circumstances. “We” who view decisions on a basis of populations rather than individuals. “We” who term others as irrational.
    “We” is all of us.
    “We” are called to the be peacemakers, not the devaluers. “We” are called to listen to other’s voices, not silence them.
    “We” need understand that our opinion is based upon limited knowledge, subject to bias and is often wrong.
    “We” need to remember
    Isiah 55: 8-9
    “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
    declares the LORD.
    “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

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