Last week, I accompanied three Special Gathering members and our South Carolina program director on a Disney cruise.  It was a great time of fun and fellowship.  At 6 feet 4 inches, one of the members, Tony,  is the “gentle giant” that usually lives in a mythical land.  He literally runs from confrontation and arguments. 

Tony’s size commands attention.  He is excitable and gets loud when he is excited.  Unfortunately, he seldom speaks unless he is excited.  His voice is as high-pitched as his body is tall and broad.  The entire package means a large, large man who has a female voice who speaks loud and excited. 

During the cruise, we were able to play an onboard mystery game several times.  The object of the game was to find and arrest the criminal and to recover stolen property.  You discover clues by going from place to place on the ship and uncovering the clues from different pictures hanging on the wall.  As we were beginning our second game, a group of older, middle school teenagers were in front of us.  Understandably, they were a bit startled by Tony’s large size and shrill voice.  Unfortunately, the fun making began.  They were not laughing with Tony but AT him. 

Tony heard and understood but chose to ignore them. 

As we traveled throughout the boat gathering clues, we seemed to be with them each time we were at a clue station.  After about four encounters, their rudeness and laughter became more and more hateful.  Finally, when they stepped out the door to the outside, I followed them. 

In my calmest and most pleasant voice, I said, “Hey, Guys.”  They turned and faced me still enjoying their latest joke about Tony.   Their visages carried the smart-aleck smirks that only young people discovering themselves can muster.  Again, attempting to be more than pleasant, I tried to marshall up my most syrupy vocal tones, “You know, my friend was born with his disabilities.  He had no choice in the way he acts.   He cannot help the way he looks or acts.  You, on the other hand, have chosen to be rude.  You weren’t born that way.  You can change.  You don’t have to be rude.”

Their smirks changed to indignant wonder  that someone who would dare to confront them.  However, one young man’s face blanched with genuine shame as he fixed his eyes on his sneakers. 

There are ongoing questions about how to treat rudeness from the public when you are with your members.  One school of thought says, “Ignore.”  Another says, “Confront.”   I probably fall on both sides of fence, depending on the situation.  I would have ignored these young people, had they quickly tired of their sickening jokes.  Yet, because their bad behavior continued to accelerate, I wanted to let them know that they were being inappropriate.  Therefore, I confronted them about their actions.

Titus says, “Do not allow anyone to despise you.”  I looked into the nuances of the Greek in that passage.  The translation is very clear.  It simply means, “Do not allow anyone to despise you.”  As Christian leaders, there are times that it is our obligation to our members to confront rudeness,  stare it down and call it by its ugly name.  Do you agree?  How would you handle a similar situation?

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