What We Can Learn from Stickers That Won’t Come Off Merchandise

Most of us have experienced the frustrating situation where you purchase something from Walmart or Home Depot or Target and when you get your item home you find the price tag almost impossible to get off. You start to pull the sticker up from the edge and, despite how gentle you are, it inevitably begins to tear and leave behind a glue residue which seems to take an act of congress to remove. Even after using soap and hot water and the sticky glue is finally gone you still can notice the place where the price tag was. I always wondered why they didn’t use stickers which could easily be pulled off.

Another experience many of us have had is listening to the mandatory safety speech on an airplane before take-off. There is that scary moment when they talk about the possibility of the plane losing all oxygen. These masks will magically drop from the ceiling and we are told to put them on. Then comes the confusing part. If you recall they all (and I do mean every airline in the world) instruct you that if you have a small child which is accompanying you, it is important to put the mask on yourself first, and then place it on the child. I always thought that was odd. If I suddenly found myself in a room with no air to breath and the life giving masks dropped down, my natural instinct would be to place the mask on the child first. So, I wondered, why the admonition to put it on yourself first?

These are just two examples where something just doesn’t seem to make sense. But, once I took time to actually inquire about these two practices, I learned to see them both in a completely different light. I spoke with a manager of a Home Depot who told me that the extra sticky price tags were purposely made so they can’t be easily removed. I was shocked and asked why. He said, if we do not have those kind of sticky price tags, people will remove lower price stickers from one item and place them on higher priced items. Apparently, it is a serious and growing trend in shoplifting. Home Depot was losing tens of thousands of dollars a year by selling high priced items for a few dollars because of price tag switching. I had never even heard of this kind of fraud. I immediately promised myself to never again complain about an extra sticky price tag.

I asked a Delta Airlines agent about the instruction to put a mask on yourself first, and then your children, rather than the other way around. She told me that extensive researched has shown that an adult without a mask who tries to put a mask on a child’s face will experience resistance and the child will endlessly pull the mask off of his/her face. On the other hand, if the adult puts the mask on first, then they are modeling for the child that it is OK. Apparently, the child is more accepting of the mask and will receive it without resistance. I now realize the wisdom of the instruction.

So many more examples could be given. But, I think the point is clear. There are so many things in life which don’t make sense because we don’t know the whole story. We see things from a particular perspective and through good listening and understanding we see things better. May 2016 be a year of good listening!

There Are Really Two Kinds of “No”

Bishop Robert Barron is the Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles and probably the most active Catholic leader on social media. His YouTube videos on a host of topics have enriched and strengthened Christians everywhere. I am indebted to Father Barron for pointing out that there are two kinds of “no” in the world. It is such an important insight, I thought it would be helpful to explore it on my blog and get reactions.

The problem we face as Christians is that culture has portrayed itself as progressive and forward looking while the church is often viewed as backward, finger wagging, and, generally speaking, grumpy about everything. We are the ones who always seem to be saying “No” to everything. I have argued for years that in a post-Christian culture it is increasingly important for the church to make it clear not simply what we are against, but what we are for. We must always cast the vision of the positive, grand, life-giving realities in Christ. This takes time and patience, which are on short supply in our day. Therefore, even with this charge, we still find ourselves in a “sound bite” world which wants to know in one word whether we are for same sex marriage, or supportive of transgenderism, or, more recently, how we feel about the growing movement in transableism.

Transableism, sometimes referred to as BIID (Bodily Integrity Identity Disorder) refers to those people who purposely disable themselves because they want to have only one arm, or they want to be blind, and so forth. Thoughtful Christians have pointed out for years that the real battle before the church today is not fundamentally about sex, but about the human body. We must find avenues to explore more deeply our affirmation of our bodily creation and turn from the destructive self-gaze which has entrapped this culture in a multitude of alarming ways. However, we find ourselves in a seemingly never-ending chorus of “no” to whatever is coming down the cultural pipeline. The church is not serving this culture well by simply affirming whatever anyone wants to do.

Father Barron points out, helpfully, that there are two kinds of “no” and it is important to distinguish between the two. The first kind of no is the destructive kind. If, for example, we are a racist and we don’t want to associate with someone of that race or religion, we might find ways to say “no” to that person and exclude them in a wide variety of ways. This is the “no” of fear, such as closing our hearts and doors to refugees, or arming ourselves. This is the destructive kind of “no” for which we must seek redemption.

But, there is another kind of no. This is a no to another no, i.e. it is a no to some kind of destructive behavior. As parents we all understand how important it is to say “no” to a plethora of behaviors which are destructive to our flourishing or a departure from God’s wonderful design. Saying “no” to a “no” is really in service to a higher “yes.” We say “No” because we embrace human flourishing under God’s rule and reign. A “no” to a “no” becomes a kind of double negative and therefore is really a resounding “yes.” When we say “no” to any kind of distortion of God’s plan or design, it is really a powerful “yes.”

So, the next time you find yourself having to, once again, say “no” to our culture’s mad dash towards self-destruction, remember that you are really aligning yourself with God’s great “Yes” in Jesus Christ!