It's Not about Upholding Standards

11:39 AM

I go to a super conservative school -- politically, morally, and spiritually. You'd think that conservative = sheltered. No parties, no swearing, no threatening ideologies, no people too different from me. And compared to the state schools, I'm sure my school looks like heaven.

Except it's not.

People get drunk on the weekends for fun. Guys talk about strip clubs in front of girls. There's clandestine sexual activity in the sorority houses, so I'm told. The jokes are vulgar, several girls walk around with their midriffs showing, the f-word frequents everyday conversations. Some people seem to have no purpose except drink, party, and reference sexual innuendo.

Yep -- there's definitely a rather unpleasant underbelly to this conservative school's polished upper crust. There's a lot of sin. Just today, I realized how many sinners this school attracts.

Oh, not the people mentioned above. They're the smaller percentage of sinners, forced into the darkness and neon lights of late-night parties and ratty off-campus basements. The most blatant, disturbing sinners walk around in plain daylight.

They wear high heels and coordinating outfits. They post clever, sarcastic Facebook posts about how much they hate PDA in the student union and girls who wear leggings as pants. Their make-up and hair is perfect. They get good grades, run in packs of equally polished young adults, and belong to College Republicans. They hold student offices or work in the student newspaper. They would never be caught drunk or partying with the frat boys. They disdain them. They are true ladies -- avoiding weirdos and impropriety at all costs.

Beneath this coiffed and polished exterior, they wear the blackest, most judgmental attitudes of anyone on campus.

When I first got to campus and tagged along with compassionate juniors, I found myself in a lunch booth chatting with all these beautiful, accomplished women. Behind me, some theater kid dropped an f-bomb -- one of the first I'd ever heard spoken aloud. One of these beautiful young women turned around and said coolly, "Watch your language, Pat."

She was my hero at the time -- boldly countering the immoral influences in my school.

I am ashamed I ever saw virtue in that. Virtue in censoring someone's private conversation in a completely different booth? Virtue in judging someone by your own standards when you know he holds different standards? Virtue in causing a poor guy who wasn't purposefully offending anybody to feel shame and reinforce how small he is in your eyes? Virtue in driving people away from real virtue by judging them?

No. Sadly, I didn't fully realize how un-virtuous that was until I became the target of polite, well-dressed women, when those same sorts of women created rumors about a close friend of mine doing something immoral, when those same sorts of women complained to their housemates about how obnoxious and scary and hate-worthy my group of friends was, when those same sorts of women shut up my boyfriend and kept going on and on about how stupid and weird his action was. And I didn't realize how my thoughts could so easily turn to judgmentalism until I heard one of those polished young women ripping the guts out of the "underbelly" of Hillsdale.

How easy it is for us to be so right and so virtuous because of our modest classiness, our good grades, and our prestigious institution. How simple it is to be blind to the grossness of the uppercrust of Hillsdale because we're so busy scraping the scumminess of the underbelly off our Sergio Rossi heels.

And then the gentlemen -- they wear bowties and slick back their hair, open doors for the ladies, and carry around Aristotle under their arms. To all outside appearances they are true gentlemen. Except that they can get drunk and break laws and make dirty jokes like the underbelly, under the pretext of a classy exterior.

Wherever there are classy people and standards, there is often rampant sin -- sin untouched and unrecognized because the daytime face is handsome and suave, and sins of pride, judgment, superiority, and partiality. The more we make it an issue of following the standards -- ditching those jeggings for more substantial wear, behaving like a lady and gentleman in public -- the more we distance ourselves from the truthfulness of our own sin and the compassion to help others out of theirs. I'm sure these same ladies would be kind and loving on a missions trip to Detroit or Africa, because there are no standards there. But because there are standards here, at Hillsdale College, those who fail to meet those standards become rebels and miscreants, not people in need of love. Because we uphold standards instead of real heart change, guys can get away with pats on the back for being "gentlemen" without ever worrying about whether they're Christ-like.

And that needs to change.

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6 impressions

  1. My mom has a saying that I think is so true: "You're as hard on other people as you are on yourself." I do feel really sorry for those who are so hard on others, because so often they can't accept grace for themselves. Doesn't mean, of course, that their behavior is excused...just that they need Jesus as desperately as the rest of us. :)

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  2. When it comes to washing the inside of the cup rather than the outside- AMEN. You are spot-on. Jesus condemned the Pharisees roundly.

    But I wonder... at what point do standards need to be upheld, and how do we go about doing so?

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  3. Gabriel -- You stick to your own personal standards, and you help uphold the standards that other people have set for themselves (i.e., not causing weaker people to stumble or judging stronger people on their freedom). Period.

    This isn't to say that you cannot challenge somebody's personal standards in a private, respectful conversation or that you cannot humbly request, "Can we please change the subject or not swear while we finish this meal?" That's still within upholding love...the main thing that needs to be upheld.

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  4. OK, so is there ever a time for community standards?

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  5. Oh, of course -- if the offending person has indeed submitted himself to said community and its standards. But then that gets into the heart of my post -- people who uphold the standards but still desperately need Jesus. And I don't want it to be about upholding standards, even when you're required to uphold standards. That is, I don't want to ever look at somebody and be more concerned that they're breaking the community's standards than that I'm just as sinful as they are and we both need grace.

    As a resident assistant, I was part of a situation where a girl contacted me because another girl had brought her boyfriend into the dorm after visitation hours ended. The offending girl was crying, but that didn't stop this other girl from frustratedly listing in detail her annoyance and disdain for the offender's history of breaking the rules. Of course, it was my job to uphold the community rules of NO BOYS AT THIS TIME, but I was more disgusted with the one girl's lack of grace than this girl's breaking the community standards. Standards are important, but the aim of standards is to benefit the people in question...people are always, ALWAYS more important than standards.

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  6. This is good, Bailey. And so true. So often we can get caught up in the external things to the point where we completely ignore the internal things. Both are important, but have to be kept in balance, and with a big heap of grace slathered all on top and inbetween.

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