Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Being Kinder Than Required



I've been home from California and my dad's memorial for 2 weeks now. A big take away for me, and I think for my brother, too, is wanting to be peacemakers. I don't feel like that's always been a part of what I learned about dealing with people. I learned to be right, to communicate my right-ness clearly, and to defend myself. But yet I just can't seem to find a time that the Bible instructs us to dig our heels in and fight like that. It does say, "Blessed are the peacemakers..." (Matthew 5:9). As I learned more and more about my dad I felt like he learned how to be a peacemaker. To accept judgement and criticism gracefully and to be one who said "I'm sorry" first. Learning that about him makes me want to be that way. I think that's a pretty awesome character quality and one worth being passed down to my brother and me. To learn to show grace always, to give people the benefit of the doubt, and really just don't put your nose and judgement in other people's business. I also find it interesting (aka, SAD) that often the harshest judgement we face is among our church or Christian friends. There is a pretty big difference between discernment and healthy accountability and just plain being judge-y and making your point heard just because you can.

What is the personal cost of just giving grace? Does it physically hurt us to just say, "man, that sounds like a super sucky day. I'm sorry you're going through this!"? NO, it doesn't have a cost at all to be kind. Why feel the need to push our opinions on why someone is having the bad day they are or be the one who thinks we can 'fix it' for that person? I mean, don't we all really just hate that? We know how to avoid rush hour or how to do the self checkout or which stores to avoid on certain days or blah blah blah. You know when someone posts on Facebook, "Geez, I can't stand Walmart. I've been in line 45 minutes!!!" And inevitably 5 people offer solutions of where and when to shop so that the person will not run into any issues. I would venture to say the most helpful responses are just, "I hate that, too! So sorry you're in that spot!"

So the question is maybe, would we rather big RIGHT than just be a friend???? I think women especially already know the answers, we just want to be validated. To be heard. We know if we're over reacting or being ridiculous...we don't need 'fixers' to point it out for us. 

The judgmental outlook tends to spread to bigger things. How soon you get married, what your marriage looks like, if/when/how you have kids, how you spend your money/debt, where your kids go to school, what you wear...Geez. I mean yeah, I've been there, too! I remember several times when things were beyond rough financially. Usually due to lots of court dates and Craig's ex thinking she was entitled to all our money. One particular time I was standing in the grocery store line and there was a 17 year old VERY pregnant girl in front of me buying junk food with food stamps. There I was, mid 20's, working full time, unable to get pregnant, buying vegetables, and not sure how to pay the car payment that month. It was a really frustrating moment and I didn't think graceful or loving thoughts about my situation vs. the girl in front of me. I felt very judge-y and self righteous in my judgement. Now that I'm pregnant and have DSHS insurance I wonder if people are judging me when I pull out of the DSHS card for medical stuff and I'm wearing Toms (a birthday gift from a friend) or pearl earrings (a family heirloom) or a Coach bag (that I bought 8 years ago). You see? We just don't know someone else's life and how they ended up in the shoes they are in. 

We don't know how they got the house they have or the car. I'm sure someone could see me with the kids at the grocery store and think that I have no idea what it's like to want a baby and not have one. Each of my children are an immense blessing. And I do know what it feels like to want and not have. Or to have and then lose.

Empathy for others has been something I've struggled with. I've tended to see the world through the lens of, "don't look at me for sympathy, honey! I've dealt with worse than you and I'm still here!" I learned young to just take care of me. Press my nose in and push through it. I didn't ask for grace from anyone and I didn't learn to offer it. That's maybe more about me just being overly tough..... But again, what is the personal cost of just giving someone grace??? 

Over the last year I have found myself needing a lot of grace. 3 family deaths, a miscarriage, a surgery, and trying to raise a teen step-child amidst fairly frequent drama with his mom. It has not been an easy year. I have seen my dear friends step in and just love me and listen to whatever I'm feeling and give me acceptance. By loving me they aren't saying, "what you are feeling is 100% right and you're entitled to it." They're saying, "I love you. I get that life is hard. I know you're in a tough place." Isn't that really what we need when things are hard? Fair-weather friends tend to hold judgement over us. When life is fun and we have smiles and easy-living to share, they are right along side us and ready to party it up. But when the storm rolls in and it's not easy anymore, we might go through a phase where we're grumpy or have zero patience or just aren't fun to be around. Fair-weather friends make their judgements and head for the door. Sadly, I've had a couple of those during my hardships. I'd like to just say, "good riddance!" But it's not that simple. The judgement hurts and the rejection hurts. I'll also add, my only fair-weather friends have been Christians. Every single time. What I want to do is try to make that a mirror for myself...to look in the mirror and ask myself if I do that. Do I write people off when they are struggling or the way they live their lives doesn't look like mine? Yep, probably sometimes.

So for me, I want to change the habit of arguing. I'm writing about it because I think, yeah, it's an issue for me, but maybe it's an issue for a lot of people. Maybe it's something a lot of us can work on together. Giving grace, being kinder than required, and thinking about other's needs. Accept people where they are, even if you disagree with things. Don't jump to fixing things for people. Just listen and actually hear. When someone trusts you, then you might be asked your opinion! 

So, that's where I'm at. Thinking about my dad, wishing I'd known him more/longer, and hoping I can take his best qualities and carry them on.

I also ran into this blog a week ago about how to really be a friend and I think it's pretty awesome- Are you a fair-weather friend?

~Diana



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