It didn’t take me long to realize that in all the venting I did in Thursday’s blog post, I spent a lot of time talking about what shouldn’t be done, as opposed to what should be. That really isn’t the most loving or edifying way to inspire change, but gosh did it feel good to rant, and envision those who inspired that rant reading it and bowing their heads in shame and repentance. Ah yes, aren’t I proud.
I’m not saying all that didn’t need to be said. It did, if only for myself (three fingers pointing back,) and I’m not retracting any of it. But there is much, much more that deserves to be said and I can’t help but wonder if Thursday’s post actually brought anyone peace or joy or one step closer to Jesus.
So I wanted to write a little bit more, specifically on a question that has been turning around in my head since I hit the “publish” button Thursday. What should we do, when others have hurt us and we want nothing more than to shout it from the rooftops and keep others from being hurt the way we’ve been hurt? Despite the fact that I often like to think otherwise, I don’t have all the answers. But I do have a few, because that lesson was taught to me in an incredibly powerful way by my parents.
I’m the product of a divorced home, twice over. My mom and (biological) dad divorced when I was two, and then my mom and (step) dad, who raised me for most of my life, divorced when I was fourteen. There were, I know, hurts that went both ways… more hurts than I’m aware of or could probably even begin to imagine. But in this crazy triangle of hurt and anger that my brother and I were caught in the middle of, one thing sticks out to me more than anything. The silence of some of those involved.
I won’t get into the details of how/what/who, but I was taught, in a way I couldn’t begin to understand or comprehend until I was much older, the redemptive/restorative power of love like that of the mother in 1 Kings 3. For those unfamiliar with the story:
Two women who lived in the same house both had infant sons and came to Solomon for judgement. One woman claimed that the other, after accidentally killing her own son, had switched the two children to make it seem that the living child was hers. The other woman denied it and both women made claims to the boy.
After some deliberation, King Solomon called for a sword to be brought before him. He declared that there was only one fair solution: the live son must be split in two, each woman receiving half of the child. Upon hearing this terrible verdict, the boy’s true mother cried out, “Oh Lord, give the baby to her, just don’t kill him!” The liar, in her bitter jealousy, exclaimed, “It shall be neither mine nor yours—divide it!”
The king declared the first mother as the true mother and gave her the baby. (1)
I had parents who refused to speak bad about their exes. I had parents who went out of their way to smooth things over between me and the ex-spouse during my formative years and I had parents who lost their relationship with me at one point or another due to their decision to keep silent in the face of misunderstandings that could have been cleared up, had they been willing to criticize my other parent(s.) It wasn’t until I was much older that I sought out the truth of my past and my parents were willing to tell me their stories. And you know what? I was told differing stories all around. Yes, someone (maybe everyone) is telling me their version of the truth, which doesn’t quite line up with the actual version of the truth. And you know what? It really doesn’t matter. Because my parents taught me what love really is. They taught me that where there is love and true forgiveness, “truth” no longer matters – or, rather, “truth” is all that matters – truth according to God’s love and not according to “which version of the story should I believe” because in light of heaven and hell and all of eternity (and, really, my own personal sanity!) it just doesn’t matter anymore. Forgiveness brings me a lot more peace than striving to know everything ever did. My parents taught me that I could be free to love them – all of them – without taking sides. They showed me that sometimes it’s better to be hurt and to lose someone than to malign someone else (this really can’t be over-emphasized… all of my parents have gone through years worth of silence from me, for various reasons at various times, mostly stemming from misunderstandings they chose not to clear up because to do so would cast someone else in a negative light.) And even though they probably wouldn’t express it quite this way, my parents taught me that it’s possible to love someone because of who God is, and not because of who they are.
So what should we do when someone has hurt us? Love them. My parents gave me a clear example of what love really is and laid a foundation from which I try to live my life today (and my husband and friends have built on that foundation through their love and forgiveness of me, along with some hard-to-swallow-but-much-needed-and-appreciated words of reproach along the way!) I’ve never really tried to articulate this before now, but thanks to the lessons taught to me by friends and family, there are certain things I try very hard to do in my relationships with others…
1. See the world the way God sees it, not the way I see it. The way I react to things and people around me will determine how I get to see the world.
2. Recognize that God loves everyone around me much more than I realize. He sees the good and the perfect in everyone – He sees HIMSELF in the people around me, and so I want to do the same.
3. Acknowledge mess-ups, because God acknowledges mess-ups. But how does He acknowledge mess-ups? Does He see them as a wrong done (which is a reason to feel pity and attempt to help) or an attack made (reason to fight back and win against someone else?) Which does God see, when He looks at His creation, and what is His response? What should my response be?
In my previous post, I mentioned that there are certain things I don’t want to hear, and conversations I don’t want to have. Ever. There are other conversations I want very much to have.
I want to hear about how so-and-so did such-and-such to who-and-who and how you plan to help them work out their misunderstandings and get over their offenses and seek reconciliation. I want to rejoice with you over restored relationships and the peace that follows forgiveness even when relationships can’t be wholly restored.
I want you to tell me about the ways you’re planning to help so-and-so with rent and his girlfriend with a place to say, so that they can avoid temptation. I want to hear about the time you’re planning to spend with such-and-such to help with the kids and model alternative ways of discipline, and the things you’re planning to do with who-and-who in an effort to help him see that his current understanding of God might not be entirely accurate.
I want you to challenge me and help me and pray for me, and I want to do the same for you. I want to be honest with you and admit that I’m a horrible human being, and I want you to say “yea, you really are” and then call me on my crap and help me to get better. I want you to love me for who I am but never, ever let me stay that way. I don’t want to hear about how crummy your friend is, but I’ll gladly listen to you tell me how crummy YOU are, and I’ll love you anyway and pray for you besides.
1.) Adapted from Wikipedia