The message behind the message

The other day my daughter decided to re-position the bumpersticker on my car, not realizing that doing so would create all sorts of creases and airbubbles, making it sloppy-looking and hard to read. When I caught her having just done it, I made a big show out of being upset and offended -- at the very least she should have asked me before doing something like that! -- and I peeled the sticker off and threw it in the trash.

But the truth is, I am really glad to have it gone.

This is strange, because I really like what it said: "GOD BLESS EVERYONE - NO EXCEPTIONS". The message is an important reminder to me that there is no one on this planet -- and no part of ME -- that is unworthy of love and forgiveness, or doesn't deserve to be here. I believe in that message so strongly, and yet for the few months that I drove around with it on my bumper, it made me increasingly uncomfortable.

Especially when I did something in traffic that could have annoyed another driver, I was hyper-aware of the other unintended messages my bumpersticker might be sending. I am better than you are, I could hear it taunting. My message of universal blessing is better than whatever parochial message is on your bumper. And if your beliefs are so limited that you think there is anyone unworthy of being blessed, or if you are so unenlightened as to struggle putting this ideal into practice, then you should change to be more like me. "Sure, God bless everyone," I imagined the people behind me thinking, "but you, smug SUV driver, are a jerk."

And having the bumpersticker made me feel like a jerk. Not exactly the impact I was going for.

By contrast, my husband has a bumpersticker on his car that simply says, "You are loved." (Coincidentially, it was also put on his car by our daughter, without his permission.) But now he says he likes it because every time he goes to his car, it makes him smile, like he's being greeted by a friend. And I expect it's a nicer message for the people following him, as well. "That jerk didn't let me in," they might think, "but he probably didn't mean me any harm." The message invites forgiveness without commanding it, and I like it very much. 

My friend Alex Cook is the one who created the You are loved bumpersticker, and also paints beautiful murals with the same message.  I think I am going to get me one.