One evening when I was in college, one of my good friends heard a phrase on a TV show which he found amusing. While rescuing abandoned children from a fire, one of the firemen from the show supposedly commented in anger: “Stupid people shouldn’t breathe.”
Immediately my buddy came across the hall to share with us his new favorite phrase. Then he went back to his room and made a sign which he proudly placed on his door. The sign read:
“Stupid people shouldn’t breath.”
The irony of his spelling mistake was not lost on us. As you might expect from a bunch of immature college guys, we mocked him incessantly for weeks (especially when we found out that the fireman actually said, “Stupid people shouldn’t breed“).
All of us at some point find ourselves frustrated with stupid people. You know, the idiot who cut you off on the highway. Those people at McDonald’s who can’t keep your simple order straight. Your boss at work who has no clue what he’s doing.
You know, stupid people.
We find ourselves mumbling to our spouses about the stupid people at work. We complain on Facebook about the stupid people out there in the world. You know, those “lazy millennials who are whining in their protests, but don’t know really understand what they are protesting.” Or those “racist Nazi Republicans who are blindly following a madman.”
Stupid people. They anger us. They frustrate us. They drive us nuts.
When I feel tempted to rant against the stupid people in our world, I remember my buddy from college. And then I look in the mirror.
You see, we get angry with stupid people because it makes us feel superior. We’re smart; they’re idiots. We get it; they don’t. We fancy ourselves unabashed “truth sayers.” We tell it like it is. We call it like we see it.
But calling other people stupid is just plain stupid.
I get so mad at that idiot who cut me off, but then I have to remember the times when I have accidentally cut somebody else off. I didn’t see them. I was in a hurry. Whatever my reason, the other driver was probably mumbling under his breath, “Stupid people.”
We are all stupid people. Just ask God. We are all at times lazy, foolish, inconsiderate, ignorant, rude and otherwise utterly inept. Yet our God loves us anyway. He forgives us our stupid sins because of Jesus. And he calls us to forgive other people’s stupid sins as he has forgiven ours.
Does that mean we should never speak out when we see stupid and hurtful things being done around us? Of course not. Our God calls us to point out the sinfulness in our society and even in other people. We are called to be truth sayers.
But as my dad always used to say, “Being right isn’t enough.” God has called us to speak the truth in love. As Christians, we point out the sins of our world, not to make ourselves feel superior, but to lovingly effect change – to lovingly help others see his love and forgiveness.
Remember that the next time somebody swerves and cuts you off. Think about that when you are tempted to write or share sarcastic posts on Facebook which mock or otherwise deride those with whom you disagree. Learn to disagree respectfully. Speak the truth in love.
Because calling other people stupid is, well, stupid.