Grading Each Other’s Report Cards

Published 3:34 pm Friday, April 15, 2022

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By Charles Qualls

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” That is a wonderful saying which seems varyingly attributed to all the wrong sources. No one can seem to figure out who really said this.

Whether Albert Einstein really did say this, or someone else in ancient Eastern culture, the wisdom holds all the same. We all seem to grade each other by some report card. Often, our criteria for evaluating is either wrong or vastly incomplete.

Michael Jordan’s son played basketball. Walter Payton’s son played football. Ted Williams’ son tried baseball. All three were actually good. None had a fair chance, nor seemed to succeed, because most were holding them to their dads’ impossible standards.

A pastor can preach consistently well and teach strong, informative Bible studies. That same pastor can visit the hospitals, perform the funerals and work with all the committees. He or she can be all over the community, representing the church in all the ways necessary to help her live into a new day.

But, the pastor is caught in-between. The widow is sitting at home. She’s not on mission projects with the pastor and the church, serving in the community. She’s not showing up for church activities. She’s only counting her own home visits, and the pastor will look like a complete failure if that’s the only criteria on the report card.

Single-issue voters are tough to win over. Most all of us are somehow caught in between our realities and the expectations others have of us. Some of those expectations are fair, but still not realistic. Other expectations are completely unrealistic.  Life is full of trade-offs, and all of our perspectives are limited.

I watched Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy in an interview again just this morning. His desperate appeal again has been for support. Truth is, the world has offered and sent billions of dollars in support. He knows this, and is quite grateful for it. Genuinely so, it would seem.

But what he most desperately needs is the one thing that he understands he is not likely to get. He wants air support that effectively shuts down the Ukranian skies so that the relentless Russian bombing will be stopped. I’d want that too, if I were him.

If his only criteria for evaluating the vast support his country has received, and will continue to receive, were shutting down the skies then he would grade the rest of the world harshly. Just often enough, though, he betrays that deep down he understands where the other world leaders are coming from on their decisions thus far.

Still, he pleads for the air support that appears never to come. He does because he must. That is, Zelenskyy is a man caught in-between what he understands and what he needs. I think that realism is yet another reason I have so far found him to be admirable.

My heart hurts at the genocide I see in Ukraine. Complex situations always appear to have simple solutions, but the simple solutions to complex problems are rarely correct. Wiser heads than me will have to prevail, and most of all I pray that God will accompany the Ukrainian people while we wait for good to triumph over evil.

I wonder sometimes if, like president Zelenskyy, part of loving our neighbor is done in keeping our expectations fair and realistic? I wonder what kinds of marriages and homes, what kinds of workplaces and cities, we would have if we were more fair to one another?

I suspect if one had a chance to interview the betraying Judas Iscariot after he betrayed Jesus, one of the reasons he would give for doing so would be that Jesus failed his expectations. Judas seems to have bristled at Jesus’ talk of handing himself over to Roman authorities. Jesus was the head of the ministry from which Judas was stealing. The leader was a key to Judas’ own personal affluence.

This Easter, we’ll celebrate once again a risen Christ. We’ll give him an A+ with every hymn we raise and every scripture we read. Yet in the middle of it all, there was Judas giving Jesus a failing grade because all he could see was what he himself cared about.

Being fair to one another requires wisdom, broad vision and the ability to care beyond our own selves. Yet, God calls us to at least try.