I could feel it vibrating, so I did a quick peek to make sure it wasn’t one of the kids. Seeing my friends’ names on a group text, I pushed the phone back in my purse until the movie was over.
As soon as we were in the car, I retrieved the phone. The message thread was buzzing with commentary about the day’s big news: the Ashley Madison list. Names from the list were flashing across my screen. My friend’s boyfriend. Another friend’s brother. An acquaintance’s husband. Local politicians. A prominent minister. I recognized so many.
My responses were judgmental. Seeing these names – and the dollar amounts spent on infidelities and dalliances – had me stunned.
These were bad people. They deserved this.
Then I paused, and thought about their loved ones. I asked myself the question: What would I do?
But the question was strictly rhetorical. My husband would never do such a thing. He’s better than them. We’re better than them. I let that feeling wash over me with a smugness that was unsettling.
“I’m better than them.”
But what if it had been a different list.
What if it had been a list that I was on?
I’m on a lot of lists. Some I’m proud of. The list of volunteers at my son’s school. The list of donors to our new church. The list of people who voted in the last election.
Other lists, I’m not so proud of. In fact, I’m so ashamed I won’t even reference them here.
But I’m on a lot of lists. And I would be devastated if some of them were shared openly. If my children were to see my name on them. If my secrets were revealed to the world.
And I thought about the people on that list.
Some of them are feeling like there is no recovery from something this bad. Some have taken their own lives, like the pastor and seminary professor from New Orleans. I watched the interview with his family through tear-filled eyes. If only he could hear their words. His wife’s message to others, “Don’t underestimate the power of love.” His daughter’s lament that her father “doubted the fact that I would love him enough.” How many people feel alone and ashamed every single day because their name is on a list.
We have let lists define us. We validate ourselves by being on the good lists. We denigrate others when they’re on the bad lists.
We judge by these lists.
It’s time to move beyond the great American pastime of judging others. We must live with so much love and grace that the people around us will feel that love and grace every day. We have to make sure people know we love them enough. Even if they’re on a list.
Then we have to acknowledge our own shortcomings so we can move past them. We have to treat ourselves with that same love and grace we are sharing with others.
Because we’re all on a list.
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Share your thoughts on lists.