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What are We Coming To?

February 6, 2007

Recently, I experienced two things that remind me of the self-absorbed way we can act toward one another. In this case, both infractions of human decency happened to me, but they could have been perpetrated by me and could happen to anyone. That is the way of it; we are all capable of the same ugliness we see in others.

So as not to embarrass or alert those who did these things to how much they ripped me up inside, I will disguise and generalize the stories. But they are completely true.

One person decided to send me a letter by registered mail. This man is an old acquaintance from many years ago and we have shared good times and bad, both in our lives and the lives of our children. In his letter, he spoke about a favor he asked me to do for him several months ago. This was a reasonable favor and I did as he asked with great delight. In the note to me, he upbraided me for not taking the time to find out the details of how he wanted this favor performed. In other words, he was angry because I didn’t do exactly what he wanted – even though he never really told me what he expected. He then proceeded to tell several friends how much he was unhappy with my “lack of effort” on his behalf. He threatened to end his friendship with me unless I apologized and let it be known to our friends how awful I had treated him.

I did tell him how sad I was that he was angry. However, I had done nothing to apologize for, and I do not make things up to help others feel better. That is the essence of living a lie.

The second happening was much different than the first. I do not know this person well, they’re just a friend of a friend. We were at the same house at the same time last week. While there, this person’s daughter became violently ill with the stomach flu and threw up on one of my family members. I did not witness this happen, but when I came in to help clean up the mess, her family would not allow me. They called me a day later and yelled at me, asking me why I had to make the little girl “feel so bad about her accident”. As far as I recall, no one (myself included) said anything at all other than to ask how she was feeling. I thought all of us showed remarkable restraint considering that it is flu season here.

These two situations are examples of thoughtless, selfish behavior. If I spend hours of mental energy, I could probably piece together the thought patterns that lead these people to react this way. But I can’t be bothered to spend that much time on something that is not my problem. I have released both hurts completely and I could look both people in the eye right now without any qualms. But what am I supposed to learn from God about this?

Here are three things I have gleaned from these less than wonderful experiences:

1. People can literally get offended about anything, and no matter how hard I try, I can’t prevent everyone from getting upset with me…nor should I waste my energy trying to prevent these sort of offenses.

2. I should possibly ask myself every time I am offended by the actions of another if anyone in this world would see it from my perspective. If they really couldn’t, I should abstain from bringing it to anyone’s attention. I should just get over it.

3. Notwithstanding lesson #2, the next person who acts like a jackass for my sake had better expect to have it pointed out to them;

Y’all duly warned.

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6 comments

  1. Sounds like you were the one who was vomited on. So very sorry, it stinks! Too bad the for them they don’t know your heart, but are just judging outward appearances. Perhaps listening to your favoirte songs will help “clear away some of the vomit.”


  2. One of my favorite songs is “Tubthumping”. To quote that ditty: “I get knocked down, but I get up again”. Not a bad philosophy.

    That’s a great description. I did feel like someone vomited on me. Especially the first person mentioned. It is good to not be carrying it around, but it was smelly and messy at the time. Emotional vomit carries viruses too, I’ve learned.


  3. Would this story look different if told by your old acquaintance, or your friend of a friend? You see, we are such sensitive and defensive beings that it’s nearly impossible for a person to be completely honest about their own responsibility in any offense. We all project ourselves as pure as the driven snow, mere victims of another person’s gauche behavior. And surely there is no lack of childish people in the world to aggravate us. But that won’t change until the second coming. So what’s a good intentioned believer to do? I’m beginning to find that when I ask God to show me where my own responsibility lies He is quick to respond. Hearing from God is not just about hearing something that makes me feel good about myself. Ah, but that sort of coming before the Lord requires a willingness to receive whatever He says, even if it’s painful. How many jackasses have the guts to do that?


  4. Anonymous, I agree with you about how it would look from their perspective. I can tell you how those people saw it. The first one saw me disrespecting him by not taking time out of my schedule to find out how I wanted his “favor” done. The second person was appalled that I wouldn’t comfort their child. In the first instance, I was neglectful; in the second, I was uncaring.

    Both may have been true.

    I assure you, I did listen to God in both instances. In both cases, God told me to let go of the hurt and not dwell on it (as I mentioned in the article). He also told me there is no requirement to keep letting people do these sort of things to me without responding. As long as my response is pleasing to Him.


  5. The thing is, you can’t tell us “how those people saw it” without partiality to yourself. I’m not picking on you, we all do it. My point is this: if we tell our stories to others in ways that make us look favorable, then wouldn’t we do the same thing when coming to God? Oh, I know God can blast through our biases in order to tell us the truth. But what if God would prefer that we get rid of our biases first? It seems dangerous for us to seek God’s voice when we might not be doing so in complete honesty. In other words, if I go to God seeking his counsel, but deep inside—in that place where the line between truth and self-deception is blurred—isn’t it more likely that I will only hear what I want to hear? How do you test it? How do you know for sure it’s from God? For myself, I found there was a natural progression towrds confirmation. In the beginning, God’s messages to me were usually words of affirmation and healing. As I matured—or toughened up—it seemed that he began to reveal my flaws and sins. It wasn’t always just a matter of hearing God’s voice in my heart, it was also confirmed from other sources. God once confirmed what he was telling me in my heart through and unexpected email from a co-worker. It might also be in a Bible verse, or a song. As the confimation came from other sources it was harder to resist, especially if it had to do with something in my life that needed to change—something for which I was responsible.
    Yes, there are times when God speaks and it is so forceful that there is no doubt it is from God, and no other confirmation is necessary. But when it’s not a forceful clear message, how to you tell? I just want to hear the truth, not what I want to hear.

    By the way, when you say, “He also told me there is no requirement to keep letting people do these sort of things to me without responding” something stirs in my heart, and it’s not peace.


  6. Zingers coming in from right and left. We we all commenting on Mike’s words, his situation, or getting on our soapboxes to expound in our own defense?



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