I remember having a couple of sisters who were renting a house from us a few years back…in fact, it was the house that we are living in right now. One of the sisters was…I’ll just say she was on the aggressive side. We were having a misunderstanding and I was trying to walk her through it logically: In the living room, there are two different light switch plates that can turn on the lights and fan but when one of those is turned off, the other one won’t be able to turn the lights on. Also, in the master bathroom, the electrical outlets are all connected to a GFI to protect people from accidentally electrocuting themselves. That particular circuit was connected to an outlet in the garage on the other side of the wall where they put a giant commercial-type freezer that was inappropriate for the circuit. Needless to say, the freezer kept over-loading the circuit and triggering the GFI which would turn off the aggressive woman’s curling iron in the bathroom. So, she was demanding that I rewire the entire house and remove the GFI from the bathroom circuit. I was explaining that I would not be rewiring the house as I didn’t even desire to change things because they were that way by design (and thought to myself: if you can’t figure out the light switches in the living room, I am certainly not trusting you with electricity and water in the bathroom! Good grief!) That was when the woman cussed me like I’ve never been cussed before. I think she may have even invented obscenities to throw at me. It was such a thorough cussing that I had to force myself to not actually imagine some of her word pictures for fear of being scarred.
Now, anyone who knows me, knows that it is a rare thing for me to back down from a confrontation. (I don’t want to worry about having it later so I am someone who will just say, “Alright, let’s throw down right now and get it over with.” That way, it doesn’t have to take up valuable real estate in my head during the time leading up to a scheduled confrontation.) Anyway, it was weird but I calmly told her “When you are able to pull yourself together and have a conversation with me like a civilized adult, we can talk. Until then, I suggest that you refrain from speaking to me unless it is in writing.” I said good-bye and hung up. A few days later, I was in the yard with Michaela and hugely pregnant with Caleb when the two sisters drove up to our house to drop off rent because they were too late to mail it. They had not seen me in person for a while and were not aware that I was pregnant, but for some reason, me being pregnant brought more shame to the woman who had cussed me out. She was mortified. They were also asking to have their soon-to-be-expired-lease extended. I wasn’t ugly to them but I was not up for more nastiness either so I politely told them thank you for the rent but that we would be declining their request to extend the lease because we can tolerate a lot of things, but an attack on me was not one of them. After that, we didn’t have any more trouble from them. In fact, they were very humble in their approach to us from then on and they wanted to get their security deposit back so they left the house in excellent condition for our next tenant, a lovely woman who was newly-widowed.
Why in the world am I telling you this story? Well, I think that sometimes when we interact with people, we don’t consider their circumstances. There is not always a visible sign (like an enormous pregnant belly) to indicate some huge things going on in someone’s life. We don’t always see what is going on in someone’s mind, heart, or body that is bringing them grief, stress, or pain. We don’t know what battles they are currently engaged in or what burdens they are currently carrying for themselves or others. I know that I have been guilty of this so many times and it has never turned out well…and I certainly haven’t shown Jesus to others when I was popping off and only considering myself…so…maybe, just maybe…the goal should be to be kinder than necessary so that we can not add to their burdens. I would much prefer to be foolish for giving someone the benefit of the doubt when I shouldn’t (maybe a bit naive?) than to be foolish and hateful when someone’s load is already more than they can bear up under. Either way, we risk foolishness but I would rather choose foolishly kind than foolishly hateful if that makes sense. One of those reflects my beliefs better than the other. One of those reflects my heart better than the other. And one of those reflects the state of grace that I live in and benefit from more than the other (along with the God that extends that grace to me.)
So, how are you doing with this? Is there someone in your life who could use a break? Someone who could benefit from your kindness instead of harshness? Could your “wisdom” in the form of a tongue-lashing be more harmful than helpful? Sometimes, gentleness, or just a refusal to engage in the fight, can speak so much more directly to their heart and conscience than the loudest and most self-righteous of lectures. How could you communicate with more gentleness and possibly fewer words? And the big question, the person that you have the most tension with…do they see Jesus through you?
My prayer today is that we would be able to receive grace and give grace in a way the glorifies the author of grace. I’m praying that we would help others shoulder their burdens instead of adding weight to them. And I’m praying that we would love…love deeply…in a way that allows us to put away our pride so that we are able to see the circumstances that others are in. Much love friends,