Imagine we’re all at a party together. Good food, good drink, good music. We’re all just milling about and engaging in random conversations around the room. Eventually we’re all sitting or standing or leaning somewhere comfortable and the whole group engages in one conversation. It’s not politics, economics or philosophy; someone starts the conversation by talking about my dad.
Pretty soon the conversation has gotten pretty lively as everyone has jumped in with their thoughts and impressions about my dad. Imagine one guy who says, “I’ve never met him and I’m not really sure he even exists.” If you know me, you know I’d chuckle over that one. Then imagine another guy who says, “I know him quite well and I can tell you he’s real and here’s what he’s like….” And then imagine my reaction as this guy starts telling the room how exacting my dad is, how angry he is at the things people in the room have done and how they better straighten up and get their act together if they want better than a snow ball’s chance in hell to ever meet him or get to hang out at his place.
Still imagining? Now picture another guy piping up. “No, no, no, I know his dad and that’s not what he’s like at all! He’s super loving, generous, and gracious almost to a fault.” He keeps going, “Listen to this,” he says, “I stole a bunch of stuff out of his garage and when I got caught I just said I was sorry, told him how much my parent’s screwed me up and all was well! He took it so well I still rip stuff off from his garage now and then. He’s awesome!”
One more guy jumps in to the fray before I can say a word. “You guys are both crazy, that’s not what his dad is like. His dad is bigger and more other than you can possibly imagine. Everything he does is based on his faithfulness to his word. He is truly a man of his word.” Everybody shifts in the comfortable spots to hear when this guy is adding to the conversation. “You’ve heard he’s generous. Well, he once said that he wouldn’t be “out given”. If you give him a gift you’re guaranteed to get the same back and multiplied by 10! In fact, he’s so faithful to do what he says that if you’ll give him a gift every week, you’ll not only get it back and multiplied but he’ll keep your car from breaking down, your kids from getting sick and your business will always be successful! Of course, if you fail to drop off a good sized gift every week, well, let’s just say he forgets your name pretty quickly.”
The room is filled with ooooos and aaaaaaas.
If this was your dad they were talking about, at what point would you jump in to this conversation? How long would you keep hanging out with this group of people and still call them ‘family’ even if they all claimed to be your brothers and sisters? At what point do you object to descriptions of your dad that aren’t your dad at all? When is it time to stop tolerating the storytellers and pretenders who are misrepresenting who your dad really is?
The question isn’t whether my dad likes blue curtains or red curtains or no curtains. It’s not about whether he prefers blue grass or country western or Elvis. The question is, when someone is defining the character of my dad to others, even if he claims to be my kin, when is intolerance the appropriate response?