Your quality known among your enemies

It’s a powerful scene in the movie Kingdom of Heaven, in which newly-minted Christian knight Balian (Orlando Bloom) releases into freedom ‘Saracen‘ knight Imad ad-Din al-Isfahani. Balian had fought and defeated what he thought was Imad’s master, over a horse found on the master’s desert plot. Balian ordered Imad to take him to Jerusalem, but then released him and gifted him the horse.

“Your quality will be known among your enemies, before ever you meet them,” Imad says, before riding off.

The core idea–that someone’s quality of character could resonate far beyond oneself, even among those who might oppose you–is found in a number of faith and cultural traditions.

In the Buddhist Dhammapada: “Not in the sky, nor in the midst of the sea, nor yet in the clefts of the mountains, nowhere in the world (in fact) is there any place to be found where, having entered, one can abide free from (the consequences of) one’s evil deeds.”  At the core of this, of course, is karma–what goes around, comes around; you get what you give.  But there isn’t necessarily the recognition of character in this.  One’s karmic debt might influence one’s interaction with the universe, but that doesn’t mean one’s reputation precedes him.

In the Bible, too, are a number of corollaries.  In Galatians we find a line repeated in Kingdom of Heaven, as well, “Make no mistake: God is not mocked, for a person will reap only what he sows, because the one who sows for his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows for the spirit will reap eternal life from the spirit.”

Or in Luke, with the story of the Good Samaritan.  Although a victim is left on the road by two people who might be expected to offer help, it was the ‘outcast’ Samaritan who was the true neighbor. Jesus is quoted as saying the true neighbor was “the one who treated him [the victim] with mercy,” telling us to “go and do likewise.”

Or perhaps Sirach has a better match. “The kindness people have done crosses their paths later on;  should they stumble, they will find support.” 

And that’s maybe bolstered in Philippians with the clear directive, “Your kindness should be known to all.”

Of course The Golden Rule applies to the core idea here as well, but it doesn’t necessarily deal with the idea your reputation for fairness and goodness would be known even by your enemies.

I’m not sure why this line speaks to me as it does. There are pros and cons to the world knowing you are just and good-hearted. Unscrupulous people might try to take advantage of your morals and personal credo, and use your playing-by-the-rules against you.

But among those with honor–and honor and nobility are characteristics inherent in the dynamics of Kingdom of Heaven–that reputation bolsters your standing as an honorable player, afforded respect and courtesy even among those who disagree or oppose you.

We can’t always know which people in our lives are playing honorably or unscrupulously, and we can’t control what someone might do with the knowledge we play by the rules.

As I’ve noted before: we can only control ourselves, our actions, and our interactions. How we will be judged, is how and who we are now. And it should be done with humility–there’s a difference in earning one’s reputation through action, or by being one’s own cheerleader.

What better moment for bettering the world than now?  If we were to be judged on our lives up to this point, can we stand confidently before our Judge and claim excellence?  In my opinion, everyone’s truthful answer should be “No, but I tried my best.”

As the headlights swerve toward you, don’t panic

It wasn’t until long after the car had passed, and I had escaped unscathed, that I realized I hadn’t panicked.  I remember hearing once that traffic incidents often happen near home, probably because we let our guards down.

Maybe that was in the back of my mind as I rode my scooter, on my street, three houses from my home, and I saw the headlights veering toward me.  Cars park along one side of my street, so it’s not unusual for a car to drift farther than necessary.  I watched closely though, shifting closer to the sidewalk on my side of the street.  The headlights kept coming. The speed was noticeable.  I moved even farther to the sidewalk.  Then the headlights swerved quickly toward me, then away, and the car passed.

I stopped, letting my scooter lean beneath me toward the sidewalk as I looked at the car, waiting for some sign that the driver was aware.  It appeared to run a stop sign and hurry away.  After continuing home, and taking stock of what had happened, I realized: I didn’t panic.

Continue reading “As the headlights swerve toward you, don’t panic”

A “Fourth” Away from “Home”

Editor’s note: Here are some past thoughts about living a Fourth away from home, from 4July2009. A new post will be coming soon.

Regular readers of AnthonyGanzer.com may be surprised by this, given my frequent jaunts to Europe over the last few years, but this is my first “Fourth of July” not on American soil.  The “Fourth” has taken its hits as a holiday just as others have.  Christmas was adorned with Santa and commercialism, Easter with rabbits and biologically inaccurate eggs, and the “Fourth” has its customary PBS concert specials and sales on charcoal briquettes–the things on which freedom was built, of course.  And who can forget the elaborate fireworks displays, and toddlers running around with “harmless” sparklers in the front yard.

But even those subtle remembrances to our country’s founding are absent here in Germany, though a faint sense of patriotism still wafts in the air.

Continue reading “A “Fourth” Away from “Home””

Reflections on a falling crucifix

I’d like to begin this post by expressing my regret that, after enduring the pain and emotional exhaustion of a wife battling cancer, a man lost his leg in an accident involving a falling crucifix.  I begin with that expression of regret because I want to be clear that I don’t bear any negative feelings toward the man described in this CBS 2 story from New York.  It was tragic.  But in reading this story I was presented with a few theological considerations, perhaps prompted by poor or unclear writing–“David Jimenez believed his devotion to a crucifix was responsible for his wife being cured of cancer,” it says.  This sentence infers the man had a devotion to a particular object, a crucifix.  And in his desire to show reverence for that object, it dislodged and crushed his leg.  What is this story saying, or not, about faith, and about God?

Continue reading “Reflections on a falling crucifix”