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Still in the Boot

Near the end of my brother’s freshman year in college, he broke his ankle. He had a buddy – let’s call him Dave – who saw him limping in his boot around campus those final days of the semester. When they came back for sophomore year, their paths no longer crossed. Michael lived at a fraternity house on campus and Dave lived in a house off-campus. They didn’t have any classes together. An entire year passed without the two seeing each other even once.

Then, in Michael’s junior year, he sprained his ankle and, once again, ended up in a boot.

He ran into Dave.

Dave hadn’t seen him since freshman year – when he was in another boot. It didn’t occur to Dave that Michael had a different injury.

“Are you still in that boot?” he asked.

It’s kind of that way when we run into a friend from a past season of life, isn’t it? They assume we are who we were then. They assume we haven’t changed, haven’t grown, haven’t healed. And we assume the same of them.

We see this a lot in the media. Reporters dredge up a clip from twenty years ago that “proves” the subject doesn’t mean what they said today. Are we really assuming that there is no difference? No growth? No change of mind?

I wouldn’t want to be held to that standard. Twenty years ago, I was fourteen. I would respond differently to almost everything. Shoot, five years ago I was twenty-nine. I wouldn’t want to be held to what I said and believed even then.

I’m not suggesting that there aren’t consequences to our words and actions in the past. That’s not at all my point. My point is simply that if we really believe that people can change and grow, we ought to extend grace. We ought to take people as they are now and not as they were then.

People change. People grow. People heal.

Not everyone, of course. We can all probably think of high school friends that never really graduated.

But let’s give folks the benefit of the doubt. Let them prove us wrong, rather than never give them the chance to prove us right.

Let’s allow people to think and believe and behave differently.

Let’s not assume they’re in the same boot.

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