A Lesson We All Need to Learn

An episode from the old TV show, Fraiser, has an important lesson for us. Radio psychiatrist Fraiser Crane has had a long, rough day. Finally, when a man steals the seat he was waiting for at the local coffee shop, Fraiser has enough. Grabbing the man by the collar, he runs him out of the shop, shouting, “What you need is an etiquette lesson!”

Fraiser later chastises himself for losing his temper and allowing his more animal nature to come out. He prefers, he says, to settle his disagreements like an adult, using words and reason instead of force. Yet, a newspaper reporter hails him as sort of a folk hero. To Fraiser’s dismay, people begin to follow his example, giving little “etiquette lessons” of their own. A caller to the radio show tells Fraiser how he smashed his neighbor’s leaf blower against a tree, after the man had been blowing leaves at 7:00 in the morning. Another brags how he shoved a pound of rotten meat into an irritating neighbor’s air conditioner.

After dozens of callers describe their vigilante exploits, Fraiser exclaims that they have each gone too far. He says, “I displayed a minor bit of force to just make a point. I did not go around smashing windows or torching lawns! Where does it end?” The caller replies, “Are you saying that what I did was wrong?” “Of course, I am!” shouts Fraiser. “But you think what you did was okay?” the caller responds. This stops Fraiser in his tracks. To his credit, he realizes what the right thing to say is, and he says it. “Well, come to think of it, what I did was just as wrong. I mean, who am I to decide what the acceptable level of force is to use against someone with whom I am not happy?”

Friends, there are a couple of important lessons for us in this story. First, violence is seldom a good tool for solving disputes with those around us. Our efforts to teach someone a “lesson” (on etiquette or anything else) often lead to retaliation and an escalation of the conflict. The Lord instructs us to “Never pay back evil with more evil,” and “Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:17,18) If we follow those directions, we will be on a path which usually leads to less heartache and more happiness in our lives.

Secondly, we are reminded that we tend to excuse our own sins, even as we denounce what others are doing. Whenever we see behavior and attitudes in others which we find troubling, it is a good idea to look in the mirror. Sometimes the obvious sins of another person can help us realize similar behavior and attitudes are present in our own lives, even if not to the same degree. Fraiser decided he was not in a position to determine what degree of sin was acceptable and what was not. Jesus reminds us that no degree of sin is acceptable. He says those with lustful thoughts are guilty of adultery, and those with hateful thoughts are guilty of murder. (Matthew 5;22,28) The bottom line is that all of us, no matter what we have or haven’t done, are sinners in need of God’s forgiveness and grace. The good news is we will experience this forgiveness and grace if we are trusting in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Realizing this is a lesson we all need to learn.
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Dan Erickson