Does anyone remember the old SNL character, Stuart Smalley?

“I’m good enough. I’m smart enough. And doggone it, people like me.”

Al Franken would cheese it up in his mirror and affirm himself aloud.

And we all learned his mantra. And we used it.

And we said it in jest to ourselves, and one another, when things were getting us down.

Or maybe you remember the more recent Aibileen Clark from The Help.

“You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”

If only we all had an Aibileen to get right in our face every now and then, put their hands on our shoulders, and tell us those things.

Because, sometimes, we just don’t feel it.

We struggle.

We hurt.

We cry.

And the fact of the matter is…

We NEED each other. We NEED love and encouragement from one another.

We NEED to be encouraging one another…not vilifying other people because they do things (or DON’T do things) that we don’t understand.

And I’m talking to myself here as well.

We do not know the reasons behind another’s actions…or inactions.

Plato is quoted as saying, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

I have been in that place where every word, move, or action I have said, made, and done has been microscopically picked apart. Or at least, it felt that way.

And I have also, ashamedly, done that to others.

The truth is…we just DON’T KNOW what someone is going through.

I have been wrapped in a deep depression that no one knew about, save those who lived behind the doors with me.

I have been in that place where the very idea of going to bed at night was upsetting because I didn’t want to have to get up and go through the motions all over again.

And the overflow of that depression affected everything in my life.

Yet I could smile and laugh and pretend it was all okay when I was in public. And no one was any wiser.

But, as painful as it was, I learned through that experience.

I learned compassion.

When that thought rises within me now, that thought that wants to react negatively to someone’s behavior or remarks or supposed ambivalence, I am reminded by the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit,

“You don’t know. You don’t know, Annette, what pain they might carry, what burdens they strap on everyday as they wake up, what scars have been carved on their life.”

Only God knows, truly, what may lie beneath the surface of another person.

And so…

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” —John 13:34-35, NIV

It is in our LOVE for one another that the world will know us.

Not in eating chicken.

Not in signing a petition.

Not in the remarks we make amongst and to ourselves that cause those who see our whispers, feel our stares, and can read in our faces the disdain we feel at and/or for them.

I love the way The Message simply states Romans 14:19-21…

 19-21So let’s agree to use all our energy in getting along with each other. Help others with encouraging words; don’t drag them down by finding fault. You’re certainly not going to permit an argument over what is served or not served at supper to wreck God’s work among you, are you? I said it before and I’ll say it again: All food is good, but it can turn bad if you use it badly, if you use it to trip others up and send them sprawling. When you sit down to a meal, your primary concern should not be to feed your own face but to share the life of Jesus. So be sensitive and courteous to the others who are eating. Don’t eat or say or do things that might interfere with the free exchange of love.