Thursday, September 27, 2012

If Only All Days Were Mayberry Days!

Every time you turn on the TV, it seems, people are fighting. Court shows give us stories of neighbors fighting neighbors and co-workers fighting co-workers - even family members going after each other! Whether you're watching daytime soaps or talk shows or prime time programming, it seems like almost everything is filled with people insulting each other and stabbing each other in the back. On the news, we see conflicts between nations, or we see images of protests, political bickering, and Muslim riots.

What's sad is you don't even have to turn on your TV to see similar things. There are plenty of real-life families where people have fought to the point they're no longer speaking to one another, and sometimes office politics can get downright vicious.

Gone fishin' © Viacom International Inc.
I don't know about you, but it makes me long for a simpler time. That's one reason why I love The Andy Griffith Show. Though it was born in a decade marked by civil rights protests, the assassinations of JFK and MLK, an increasing drug culture and the Vietnam war, the show reminded America that there could be a better way.

It's not that life was always peaceful in Mayberry - folks there had their share of problems, too - but with the good Sheriff Andy Taylor on the job, there was no conflict that couldn't be resolved in 30 minutes or less, and there was always time to relax on the front porch or go on a little fishing trip. The great thing about The Andy Griffith Show, though, is that not only does it paint an ideal world, but when conflicts arise, it also often explains why and then shows us what to do about it.

Take Season 5's "The Case of the Punch in the Nose". Going through some old files, Deputy Barney Fife discovers an ancient report of an assault case involving Floyd the Barber and Mr. Foley, the local grocer. The form doesn't say how it started or how it was resolved, so Barney decides to get to the bottom of it. Apparently, Mr. Foley fell asleep in the barber chair one day and, along with his haircut, Floyd gave him a shave. Mr. Foley insisted he never asked for the shave, so he refused to pay for it. Foley called Floyd a crook, Floyd called Foley a cheapskate, and heated words eventually led to a fist fight. Now, though the hatchet had been buried for 19 years, Barney digs it up and gets these two all fired up again. Before it's over, Floyd punches Mr. Foley in the nose, Mr. Foley punches Goober, Goober punches a customer at the filling station, Otis punches Floyd, and calls begin flooding in from others all around town who are fighting because people are taking sides over the conflict. Maybe the saddest part is when Opie gets in a fight with one of his friends because of what the adults are fighting over - a reminder of the importance of setting a good example for the next generation.

"What started as a little, insignificant thing has gotten blown up all out of reason."
- Andy Taylor in 'The Case of the Punch in the Nose'

Sound familiar?

This episode illustrates some of the reasons we often fight:
  • We get upset when people open old wounds.
  • We feel we've been wronged or insulted by someone's actions or words.
  • We are angry or frustrated with a situation.
  • We become biased because of relatives or friends.

Another episode - Season 6's "Malcolm at the Crossroads" - adds to the list. In this rather odd entry, Ernest T. Bass is angry because he blames Malcolm Merriweather for taking his crossing guard job. (In reality, Ernest T. was fired for throwing bricks at cars!) But Ernest T. might have let it go if he didn't discover Malcolm was born in England. Because Ernest T.'s parents were Irish, he believes he should hate all "Englishters". National pride, family ties and heritage can sometimes be just as strong an influence as personal pride. I'm not saying it's wrong to love your country - I'm very patriotic - but someone's nationality should not give us an automatic reason for hatred anymore than we should hate someone for the family they were born into (e.g. Hatfields vs. McCoys).

By dying on the cross for the whole world, Jesus showed that everyone has value in the eyes of God (John 3:16; Luke 12:7). Therefore, we should be careful not to lash out in anger (Psalm 4:4; Ephesians 4:26). We should avoid prejudice and partiality (1 Timothy 5:21; Matthew 5:43-48). And while it's not easy, Jesus' advice is to let offenses slide and even pray for those who wrong us for the sake of keeping peace (Matthew 5:38-41). I know it's difficult to set pride aside sometimes, but if we want peace, it takes effort.

"Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual edification."
- Romans 14:19

Stop lying and fighting - © Viacom International Inc.
It's time to stop lyin' and stop fightin'!
Part of the key is in finding common ground with our would-be opponents. But don't just fake it. Trying to stop a fight, Andy attempts to appease Ernest T. by saying Malcolm's mother was Irish. In the end, though, when Ernest T. learns the truth that Malcolm's mother was born in London, he's ready to fight again even though there had been a temporary truce. When the foundation for anything is a lie, it's only a matter of time until the truth will cause it to crumble.

Instead of making something up, we need an honest foundation if we want lasting peace. For Floyd and Mr. Foley, their peace was built on the truth of their friendship. As Andy reminds them:
"You've both known one another much too long to talk to one another like that. Now, I mean it! You've been friends for 20 years! More than friends, you've been neighbors. You must've seen one another through a lot of trouble in that time!"
Andy uses the foundation of an old friendship to urge Floyd and Mr. Foley toward forgiveness. After all, as Andy says, "The first law of friendship is to be ready to forgive." 

If your neighbor is not an old friend, perhaps you can find commonality in Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-13; Romans 12:4-5). Or if your neighbor is not a Christian, maybe you can find some other starting place.

Is your marriage in trouble? Try focusing on the love you share and the things that brought you together.

Conflict with a co-worker? Maybe you can find a project to rally behind or a shared interest or goal.

At the very least, begin with this: God made mankind in his own image (Genesis 1:26-27). That means everyone deserves dignity, love, and respect. Maybe you can't force your neighbor to make up with you, but as you adjust your attitude with this principle in mind and it's reflected in the way you act and react, you may just win them over!

Today, in Andy Griffith's hometown of Mt. Airy, NC, the annual "Mayberry Days" celebration is kicking off. I've never been (maybe someday!), but from what I read it sounds like a blast! Some of the surviving cast members come. There are folks who dress up as Barney and Floyd and other characters. There's live music, a parade, and a slew of activities for fans of the simple life portrayed on The Andy Griffith Show.

How I wish all days could be Mayberry Days! But life is more complicated than that. Most problems aren't solved in 30 minutes or less, and it's a lot easier to talk about forgiveness than it is to forgive. Often, it's a process more than a one-time event. If you struggle with this, then as I did a couple weeks ago, let me recommend R.T. Kendall's book, Total Forgiveness Experience. You may not be able to reconcile with someone, but you can still forgive them. You can also find peace through prayer (Philippians 4:6-7).

Some people may always be unreasonable, but we don't have to let them suck us in. Some prejudices have been passed down for generations, and we need to break the cycle. Maybe we can't stop all of the fighting, but we can bring a little bit of Mayberry into our lives. With God's help, we can make a difference!

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God."
- Matthew 5:9

See you at the fishin' hole!

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