We were riding the subway for the first time in our lives. My mother and Mrs. Pinney, my mom’s friend, had decided to take my three siblings and me on a ride into the heart of Toronto from Mississauga, Ontario.
We were from the little town of Wawa, Ontario. Some of you may remember this adorable town from its giant statue, the Canadian goose. Living in Wawa, two and a half hours away from civilization, kept us pretty sheltered from the world and all it had to offer.
My older sister Shaun and I sat down in a subway seat a few feet away from where my mom, Mrs. Pinney and my younger siblings, Lisa and Kirk, were situated. We were absolutely fascinated with everything we were seeing.
At one point in our journey, the people across from us got off the subway, and two young men sat down in their seats. Shaun and I sat staring wide-eyed with our mouths hanging open. We had not seen the likes of these two ever in our entire existence.
It was the year of 1982, and a phenomenon had hit the streets of Toronto that had not been known in our sleepy little town…punk rockers.
I couldn’t take my eyes off them and stared at them shamelessly. They had spiked hair down the middle of their head with points on each spike that could kill you if you ran into them. The rest of their heads were shaved. The men had studded dog collars around their necks and were dressed head to toe in black leather. Their eyes were lined with charcoal.
Then it hit me…they were going to a costume party.
I began to smile, and I broke into a laugh. My sister Shaun and I sat there giggling and whispering to each other. Then we looked over at Mom and Mrs. Pinney who was now glaring at us. They shook their heads and used sign language to tell us to be quiet…OR ELSE.
I looked back at the punk rockers, and they were grinning at my sister and me by now. I had laughed at people with costumes before, and my mom never got mad, so I didn’t know why she was making such a big deal today.
The subway stopped, and we all piled out. Mom took Shaun and me aside and scolded us for our behaviour. She explained that those weren’t their costumes, that was how they chose to dress and wear their hair. Mom said Toronto could be a dangerous place if you ticked off the wrong people and we weren’t to be staring or laughing at anyone.
I stood there dumbfounded.
Why on this earth would anyone choose to dress like that??? I couldn’t wrap my brain around it! They stood out like a sore thumb. Everywhere these men went people stared at them. They attracted negative attention at every turn. People weren’t admiring them, they were just boggled by their drastic appearance.
In hindsight, I realize now the young men had clued in that we were two small-town girls who had never seen a punk rocker. They had been gracious to us even though we had been rude to them, unknowingly.
Recently I had the reverse treatment given to me. I had seen an older woman I had not seen in years, and when she realized it was me, instead of being polite, saying hello. and asking me how I was doing, she made a rude comment on how I was dressed.
She wasn’t joking. She was known for being rude and saying things that offend people. I usually translate this as someone who is jealous of others, and it comes out as criticism. I was tempted to tell her that what she had said was rude but held my tongue.
This is how I was dressed:
This is also a valuable lesson for me to learn: as I get older, I realize the younger generation can wear things that I don’t like, but that doesn’t mean it gives me the right to say something that hurts their feelings.
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. – Matthew 7:3-5
I was dressed modestly that day. I may have had a rip in the knee of my jeans and high boots on, but the choice was mine and wasn’t meant to offend anyone.
I remember back to when I was in grade eight, and the new trend for teenage girls was to have short hair. My friend Lesley and I decided to cut our hair short. Our Sunday School teacher decided to point out the wrongness of a girl wearing short hair in front of the rest of our peers.
I had had short hair my whole life, he knew this. I had grown it out for the first time and then decided to go with the recent trend. I had cut off a foot of my hair.
I was humiliated when we were made out to be rebels in front of the rest of the class. But I had enough rebellion in me to want to go shave the rest of my head off just to spite him.
But I didn’t.
I think it is still good for someone my age to experience the sharp tongue of someone older so we can be reminded to be gracious to those younger than we are.
Having tolerance and grace for the younger generations as they go through their trends and teenage years is crucial in building stable, trusting relationships with them.
Friendships have never grown or thrived on criticism. You may remember my blog post: Beauty and Selfies: Filtering Our Obsession. I talked about the positive words my Uncle John used to bring me out of my heavy makeup phase you can see I went through, pictured above.
Tearing apart a teenagers appearance, makeup, and hair will not help your relationship with them.
I was reminded of this a few weeks ago when this elderly lady was criticizing my appearance. She isn’t someone I would want to make an effort to spend time with since I know I will be torn down instead of built up.
When we take the time to build people up and help them to see what we love about them, they begin to have confidence in us. Eventually, we may be able to gain enough of their trust that if we do need to point something out that is serious, they may take our advice without offence and be quick to forgive if we happen to be wrong.
I was watching a new version of Anne of Green Gables this past week called: Anne With an E. When Anne who is an orphan meets Rachel Lynde for the first time, an elderly, outspoken women, Rachel looks at Anne and proceeds to criticize her appearance. Pointing out her ugly red hair and gangly bone structure. Anne is mortified and spews out her own nasty words about her thoughts on Rachel.
Anne is entirely undone by Rachel’s unkind words and runs upstairs to cry in her bedroom. Her new guardian, Murilla, tells Anne she will have to apologize to Rachel. Anne says she would rather die than apologize. Murilla informs her she will be staying in her room until she says sorry to Rachel.
The next day Anne agrees to apologize to Rachel.
Anne gets down on her knees in front of Rachel and gives her best version of a dramatic apology she can muster. Adding in begging for forgiveness in the most undignified way. Rachel accepts her apology, and Murilla is satisfied Anne has done what was right.
You get the feeling from your couch that Anne isn’t genuinely sorry but knew there was no other way to leave her bedroom again if she didn’t comply. (By the way, I like red hair and might be offended if I had red hair and this show made it out to be an unattractive trait to have.)
I can just imagine if this had been a true story instead of a movie and Rachel had instead pointed out what a lovely girl Anne was with all her spunk, energy and imagination. Anne would have instantly been endeared to Rachel.
Have you been the Rachel in someone’s life? Criticizing them and tearing them apart with your words? Maybe pointing out what you don’t like about their appearance or manner?
There is a kind and gentler way to reach people. Jesus always set an example to build people up. He wasn’t into tearing people down or criticizing their appearance except when it came to the Pharisees, the teachers of the law.
Here are his words to them:
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside, you appear to people as righteous but on the inside, you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” -Matthew 23:27-28
Jesus had no use for self-righteous people who criticized other. The Pharisees were famous for making others uphold the law but secretly in their hearts they were hypocrites.
We are called to be considerate of people and to use our words to uplift and encourage them to pursue godliness through our example.
May I encourage you today to be an inspiration to the younger generations with your thoughtful words rather than your criticism and opinions. We are all trying to find our way in this world, and sometimes we don’t know why a person is the way they are.
The young men we had met on the subway many years ago, may have come from abusive homes and were dressed like punk rockers to ward off bullies who may try to harm them. All I remember is how gracious they had been to the small town girls who were laughing at them. Afterall, we had been ten years behind in our fashion and attire, but nobody had made fun of us.
May your words always cause others to walk away feeling as though you have enriched their lives with compassion and grace💗