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