From the Editor

How Well Do You Really Know Me?

Michael L. Sherer

Michael L. Sherer

Once we learn what’s inside other people, it can help to understand them.

When I was serving a Lutheran congregation in Ohio, we received a piece of unsolicited mail in the church office addressed to “Trinity Lutheran Church.” So far, so good. But the salutation read, “Dear Mr. & Mrs. Church.” Whoa! (The writer wanted to enroll “Mr. & Mrs. Church” in a new credit card program.)

Toward the end of last year, we received a fascinating “Certificate of Nomination” in our mail in the Metro Lutheran office. It was inscribed, “For selfless service to the Catholic Faith, the Board of Trustees is pleased to nominate Metro Lutheran to represent the state of Minnesota as a Charter Member of the Ave Maria University Founders Club.”

Now, that’s high praise indeed. Unfortunately, Metro Lutheran has no history of providing “selfless service to the Catholic faith.” We can only guess why we were nominated (and how Ave Maria University might feel, discovering we were their official representatives for Minnesota).

These two vignettes raise an interesting question. When people interact with other people, how well do they really know them? A little foreknowledge would surely change perceptions — and behaviors.

It has long been my experience that people I don’t know well carry with them a mystique that blocks understanding and relationship. More often than not, people I’ve perceived to be standoffish, diffident or distant (and, I’ve often concluded, intent on keeping me at arm’s length) are actually shy.

A few years ago I participated in a group-building process, in the midst of which the leader unexpectedly said, “Raise your hand if you’ve ever been fired from a position.” The hairs raised on the back of my neck. I had once been turned out of a job. I hadn’t been treated fairly, and the pain was real and long-lasting. Still, seeing six other people raise their hands helped me to see — and appreciate — them in a new way (and feel better about myself as well).

What we don’t know about one another can cripple our life together in Christ.