Depending on where you are in the world, public behavior can be seen as appropriate while in others, potentially offensive. I have come to appreciate how respect for another culture can play itself out in one’s behaviors, especially during a holiday season. The example which comes to mind is the imaginary case of someone showing up to an Easter Service in a Halloween costume. There may be nothing wrong with the costume itself, however, in context, it could be seen as offensive.
As I walked through the U.S. Naval Academy at sunset, I was struck by the midshipmen preparing to lower the flag. Their stance, taken in silence until the trumpet sounded, was appropriate and respectful. Not all civilians passing by choose to honor the ceremony. While they had a choice, and I did not sense any commentary on whatever path one took, it was a reminder of the freedom each carries within. Three lesson reminders stood out.
Expressions occur in many ways. Even in our group, as the trumpet sounded to mark the end of the day, I noted the posture of one who had once been a midshipman. Standing at attention, eyes forward and centered, arms at his side, and hands cupped and still. There was no question in my mind of his message.
One can express oneself while being respectful to others. Context shapes the how and what of one’s expression. Sometimes in stillness and on other occasions through action, one can express one’s thoughts and intents in a way which delivers the message without creating a scene and drawing undue attention and distracting others away from the center.
Certain expressions are always positive. Care and kindness are always welcome. Compassion and empathy are great companions to any moment. Again, the question is not if one should express this, but how. From the psalmist’s example, “Hallelujah! Praise God from heaven, praise him from the mountain tops,” (Psalm 148.1) we have the freedom and opportunity to intentionally express ourselves in every situation.
Once one knows why, one can tailor an expression to the moment.