Freeing Ourselves From Objectifying Others

by Mark Votava

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My North American culture has taught to be a master of individualism.  I have learned to think in black or white, in or out, good or bad, sacred or secular paradigms most of my life. But this is dualistic thinking that has caused me to objectify others and lose sight of honoring people with dignity and respect.

  •  It is a crime to our humanity to treat others as objects

To treat our neighbors as objects to be used by us is way out of line.  This is a perversity and crime to our humanity to be treated this way.  A lot of Christianity seems to treat others this way.  It is devaluing and sad to misrepresent Christ in this way.

  • An alternative to objectifying others

But the parish imagination presents an alternative to this perversion.  The parish imagination values, learns from, doesn’t think it has all the answers and listens to others in everyday relational contexts.  E.F. Schumacher says, “To treat a person as if he or she were a mere object is a perversity, not to say a crime…”

  • Bringing dignity to our neighbors

How many people have seemed to reject God because they’ve been treated with disrespect over and over again?  We need to reverse this situation and bring the dignity back to our neighbors.  We can restore the damage by listening more, learning from the lives of our neighbors and seeing the beautiful image of God in others.

  • Everyone is created in the image of God

Everyone is created in the image of God.  Everyone!  There are no exceptions.  Everyone was born into the world at some point and created as a human being.

  • Acknowledging the humanity of others

We need to start acknowledging the humanity of others and stop seeing others as “outsiders” or “sinners.”  Our neighbors have much to teach us of life, ourselves and God.  We remain foolish not to allow their influence and wisdom to shape us.  Our neighbors have so much to contribute to our lives, but it usually won’t be in ways we expect or can control.

  • Imagining all people as if they were Christ himself

The parish imagination is teaching us to imagine all people as if they were Christ himself regardless of what we might think with our rational minds.  What if we treated all people as we would treat Christ?  We would not try to constantly convert others all the time.  Christ does not need to be converted to our way of thinking.

  • We are the one who need healing from our blindness

Christ needs to be honored, loved, valued, listened to, understood and shown hospitality.  What if we acknowledged our blindness and imagined Christ to be our neighbors who we are in relationship with?  We need our neighbors because they represent Christ to us in the parish.  When we imagine our neighbors to be Christ, we are the ones who need healing from our blindness.

Why do we have such a difficult time treating others as if they were Christ?