Well, this can go down as one post I’ve written, deleted, and rewritten approximately 295.37 times. This is what happens when you’re a crockpot kind of writer and your heart bubbles over with all sorts of feelings.
What do I mean? Well, let me first start with a story.
If looks could kill, she vaporized me on the spot.
In spite of her laser beam pupils boring into me, I kept my voice level. Calmly and gently, I addressed my concerns with her child’s behavior towards my son, behavior my husband and I believed akin to bullying. She laughed in response, only taking her eyes off me to throw them skyward in an exaggerated roll. Incredulous, she informed me of her knowledge that my husband was in the military, so if any child around here acted like a bully, it was mine. When I asked her to explain what she meant, she crossed her arms and shot words like bullets, listing a litany of lifestyle and discipline habits associated with “soldiers in the military.” (Side note: Since my husband was Air Force, he technically wasn’t a soldier. But this fact made no difference to her and really isn’t the point.) It soon became apparent she believed we ran our household boot camp style, spitting out tyrannical little bully children in the process.
When I relayed the above events to my husband, he was none too happy no positive resolution to our son’s situation could be found. But in regards to the other mother’s opinion of the military, he encouraged me to make peace with this truth:
Sacrifice is part of the job, and losing the good opinion of a few misguided people isn’t the biggest price.
I knew he was right, but I have a mighty big defensive side to my personality, and I still wanted to prove myself by telling her all the ways she was wrong about me. Wrong about my family. Other thoughts raced around, too. She doesn’t even know us! How can she make such a flawed presumption simply because she saw David in uniform? This defensive streak also shows up when those I love and respect are misjudged.
Like, for example, members of our military at large.
Over the long weekend, I got my feathers ruffled when I heard far away rumblings from someone who called a certain kind of military profession cowardly.
And ya, I had All the Big Feelings about that. Just reading the words made my skin turn bristly as a Brillo pad. My thoughts sped forward:
Cowards?! For cryin’ out loud, cowards don’t volunteer for one of the most dangerous jobs in the military. Cowards don’t stand between you and life-threatening danger. Heroes do.
I ache to think what such words do for the families of those targeted. Because behind every military member are family members who serve behind the scenes, people who stand in the wake of careless words and feel their sting, too.
But then I remember my husband’s words, and they remind me that while defensive positions and speaking up certainly have their place, I’m not going to spend time trying to manage everyone’s opinions of myself or their assumptions of an entire group of people.
And what’s more, as I become incredulous over other people’s words, I realize I am guilty of making assumptions too, of sizing “them” up in unflattering ways. I try to remember everyone comes with their own set of circumstances that color their view, but sometimes I fail. I know this about myself. So whether it’s someone far removed from my own life or someone in my very present circles, I want to be gracious. This doesn’t mean all careless words get a pass, it means that I realize it isn’t necessarily my job to address each one. God sees it all, and it is his job to set each situation straight.
I want to find validation in defending truth over telling people off–whether out loud or inside my own head.
I have my own blind spots too, and if I’m going to be able to see things better, I need to sit in uncomfortable places. Today, that uncomfortable place is choosing to not talk ugly about this girl or that guy, to show respect to those I totally and completely disagree with.
Especially when I disagree with them.
I have a choice to hand out blessings or curses to everyone I meet, and I want to intentionally choose the first. God’s favorite song is sung to the tune of grace. If I want others to speak respectfully about the folks I love, I sure as heck better show grace by speaking respectfully about others, too. Even when it’s hard.
Especially when it’s hard.
Much love, friends. xo
Oh this line: “If I want others to speak respectfully about the folks I love, I sure as heck better show grace by speaking respectfully about others, too. Even when it’s hard.” – LOVE. You write the hard things with such grace and this is one I especially needed to hear today.
I needed it as much as anybody, Crystal. A big squeeze-you-til-you-can’t-breath hug to you today, m’friend!
Bethany M. says
I caught myself taking deep breaths as I read through this post. Beautifully written, and just what I needed to hear today. I love this sentence: “I’m not going to spend time trying to manage everyone’s opinions of myself”–I think I might just have to put that on my fridge so I can remember it every day. Thanks for the great reminder, and beautiful encouragement!
Leigh Ann says
Kristen, I can relate to the bullying story. My girls were being bullied over a long period of time and I was going to just take my girls out of the situation quietly but a friend said, “No, you should tell her. She would want to know.” Well, she did not want to know! I’m glad I told her and I did it in as kind a way as possible. Maybe she won’t be surprised when she hears the same words from another mother.
Regarding the coward comment, I am in the same place as you and Dean Cain. I saw the movie over the weekend and it hurt my heart to hear that very cowardly remark.
To tie all this together I’ve been thinking about the Charlie Hebdo event and the difference between free speech and bullying. The Pope said, “If you talk about my mother, expect a punch in the face.” God calls us to respond with grace to bullying though and that’s what separates us from the world. Great post as usual!
Beth Williams says
I wholeheartedly applaud the military and the sacrifices they and their families make each day! No Military person is a coward! Each military person volunteered to risk his/her life for the rest of us. We are the cowards!
I love this post!
Jessica Wolstenholm says
Kristen, your words here are such an inspiring reminder. It’s so easy to let our defenses cloud our judgement. Oh you have every right to defend but you chose grace which is often the hardest thing to do when it comes to protecting our family. “I’m not going to spend time managing other people’s opinions of myself.” I needed that reminder tonight. Thank you!
Susan G. says
WOW! Your’re a bigger woman than I… What an awful thing to say! I have such a great respect and admiration for all our military ‘heroes’, that this almost makes my blood boil! I do try to watch what I say to others and try to have more grace than not, so as not to ruin my witness for Jesus…but I am sure I would have said something back to that rude woman. Poor upbringing and ignorance plays a big part in how people ‘turn out’. She evidently wasn’t taught well, and now neither is her son. The only thing now is to pray they will see the ‘Light’. God is always faithful.
Praying for you and your son and your family.
Thanks for this. I know it will come to mind the next time I really want to ‘blast’ someone….
Angela Giles Klocke says
As the mother of a cop, I really relate to this today… I’m so sorry your family is dealing with hard things, but I know your heart and trust all will be OK. Hugs!
Sweet Angela, thanks for this. The incident I mentioned occurred some time ago, so thankfully it has long since faded into our rear-view mirror. Hope all is well with you, beautiful friend. xoxo
Angela Giles Klocke says
Good good good! <3
Please know how much I appreciate your husband’s service and the sacrifices the military and military families make. But I was upset by your remarks about “cowards”. I’ve been following that controversy as well and what is most troubling is that we define certain actions as heroic when Americans take them but cowardly when others do. If we can agree that people fighting for their country can not be defined by “them and us” or “good guys and bad guys” but all children of God living under different circumstances, perhaps we can work toward a peaceful world. But if the good or bad of an action is determined by who does it, we miss the whole point of God’s teaching.
Mouze, humblest thanks for your respectful comment here. I do see where you’re coming from–truly. While I don’t agree with your characterization of my words in general, I appreciate the spirit in which you wrote your comment–in order to work toward a more peaceful world. May it be so.
Judy Grieve says
Kristen, as the wife a retired Naval Officer I know the aggravation you feel when you hear someone “slander” the work your husband did. Or better yet how a “military” family lives. The years of being a supporting spouse makes us vulnerable. I believe we have to simply learn to smile and move away. We are the lucky ones, our husbands are here to share the rest of our lives. And without belittling or thinking less of careless words, we help ourselves if we do not linger on what was said. You wrote it so well, give grace because we have received grace. I have tried to think of the ideal rebuttal. But no response ends up being the safest. My tongue has bruises.
I am proud of the profession that he chose. I am proud of his ethic and leadership. But I know he does not feel he needs defending. God has taken care of him.
And God blesses the United States of America with good men and women who serve as faithful servants.
Judy, your wise comment is such a gift to me. Yep, my tongue has bruises too, and I’m embarrassed at how it has sometimes behaved. But I am learning, and your words spur me on in the right, gracious direction.
From one wife of a retired military veteran to another, here’s to grace, forgiveness, and un-lingering on words said to us…and by us. Much love, Judy!
Your family was targeted because of your husband’s profession, but I think this (fantastic!) quote applies also to the role of parenting: Sacrifice is part of the job, and losing the good opinion of a few misguided people isn’t the biggest price.
Sacrifice is part of our job as parents and I’ve lost the good opinion of misguided people along the way as we’ve had to parent unconventionally due to special needs in our children’s lives (though none observable to an onlooker). Thanks for writing it 296 times and posting!
So frustrating! People make snap judgements and form unrighteous opinions all the time. The only thing we can control is our reaction.
Shawnelle Eliasen says
This is powerful. I’m so glad that you decided to post. I can relate and I think what you’ve shared is beautiful and true – God’s fave song is sung to a tune of grace. Lovely. (Your husband’s words are wise, too.) Thank you. This speaks to my life today.
Such a beautiful post! Full of wisdom and grace. Although it is not always easy to do, but I agree with you to respect those who we strongly disagree with.