Election season brings to mind an experience. While in college I served on the Student Government Association as senator for two years and finally elected president during my senior year.
What I found shocking, later, was that people who said they were supporters, were doing everything in their power to see that another candidate was elected. They lied to me and about me. I am deeply saddened as I reflect on those events, that people so young and filled with promise, could act so cynically, with shocking dishonesty.
Fortunately, there were a great many students of integrity on campus, people who did not want to see such dishonesty and shameless behavior win the day. They took up my cause without mentioning to me what was taking place, and went door to door on campus.
After the election, those who were not truly supporting me, said they would “get even.”
They accused those who counted the votes of being dishonest and demanded another election. Even though I had won by a large majority, I asked that the votes be retaken rather than have a cloud over my election. Following the next election, I was stunned that more people voted overall and that I received an even higher plurality.
My year as president went very well. My detractors still refused to reconcile with me. It was the 200th anniversary of our school. When the year came to a close, and after I graduated, my “enemies,” acting petty beyond belief, and being on the yearbook staff, left SGA out of the yearbook. They got “even” with me, by hurting several other students who had worked hard on behalf their school.
The lessons I took from all of this were that while there are often bad people working at odds with what is right and good, they do not have to be allowed to get away with their actions, or win their cause. They might win, but it does not have to happen. I also learned there are good people who want to help and to see that honesty and integrity count for something.
Most importantly, that God sustains us through our difficulties, but that we are expected to continue to act in accordance with our high calling as His servants, regardless of how others act, or what they say about us. We must never sink to their level, “but run the good race,” as best we can. We are called to be friends to all people, even if they betray the friendship and trust.
In church terms, there are “ravening wolves” waiting to devour us, but we do not have to allow ourselves, or others, to fall as their prey. We must be wise. They may say they are our friends, or that they love us, but their true desire is our destruction. We are called to love them, even after they are found out, but not to become like them, or allow them to use us to destroy other people — or what God is bringing forth with His purpose. We are called to seek out truth with integrity, loving one another — acting in love always. Also, we are called never to give up the hope that those who are acting according to the ways of the world, the flesh and the devil, will turn from their ravenous ways becoming God’s sheep once again, and that God can and will effect a change in them — just as He has in us.
“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves…” (Matthew 7:15.)
The Rev. Walter Van Zandt Windsor is rector at Trinity Episcopal Church.
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