Since I got serious about my walk with God, I’ve found that I’m always in training. If He isn’t stripping me of bad qualities, He’s building good qualities in me. God didn’t wait to start my 2018 training programme. He kicked off day one of the New Year with it.
This first lesson of the year came in two parts, the first part of which is a concept that I’ve struggled before to wrap my mind around: loving people who I don’t particularly respect.
This came to the forefront in the first week of January because of who I’m calling The Inconsiderate Ones. I’m sorry but I won’t be able to get particularly specific with the details because it includes what I think is poor behaviour on the part of others and, while I believe in putting my own failures out there for you guys to see, I don’t think it’s OK to out others’ failings out there. I’ll try to give you enough details so that you won’t be confused.
So, The Inconsiderate Ones. This is a small group of people who did something that was selfish and inconsiderate, downright bad manners, and slightly insulting. It wasn’t done to me, it was done to someone else. However, I had a front-row seat to the event as it unfolded and I developed a very strong opinion on it and on the people involved. This event came on top of other observations that I had previously made about these people, which then culminated in my respect for them taking a serious hit. On top of that, how they handled (or didn’t handle) the aftermath of the event strengthened my opinion and spoke eloquently to me about their character.
I had a lot to process about The Inconsiderate Ones and it had to be done before I returned to work after the holidays for these reasons: I don’t hide my feelings well; I work with them on a daily basis; I tend to speak up when I think something is not right; it wasn’t my place to take up the issue of their poor behaviour with them. Lots to sort out in my mind.
Part of my struggle came because, when I don’t respect a person, I tend to ignore them like they don’t exist and I deliberately try not to have anything to do with them. However, I know that it’s not Christ-like to treat people like this because it doesn’t embody Christ’s love in any way, shape or form. So basically, my flesh was at war with my spirit.
And if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. Luke 6:32 (NASB)
Added to that struggle was the fact that I wanted to talk about it. In fact, I did talk about it with a friend the day after the event took place, someone who isn’t here, just to get it off my chest. But it wasn’t the same as talking about it with someone who was here, who fully understood the implications of their behaviour. I so wanted to talk about it with the persons against whom the offense was made. I was dying to let loose, to give my unvarnished opinion of The Inconsiderate Ones’ behaviour. I had a few opportunities to do it. The first two times, I started and stopped myself after expressing a couple of thoughts in a way that I really hope wasn’t malicious (I don’t think it was but my opinion isn’t exactly impartial). The other times, I just managed to hold my tongue.
To be honest, I didn’t think anything was wrong in principle with discussing it with an appropriate party here, in an appropriate way. But the reason why it didn’t feel right to pursue a conversation about it was because deep down it felt like such a conversation could too easily become gossip.
If a person thinks that he is religious but can’t control his tongue, he is fooling himself. That person’s religion is worthless. James 1:26 (GNT)
Ouch. The Word of God slapped me across my mouth and shut me up. Having been the butt of malicious gossip before in my life, it’s something that I dislike observing and I hate to think of myself participating in it. But in all honesty and keeping things one hundred percent real between you and me, I really, really wanted to go there. Added to that, during that same week I almost slipped again with another, unrelated issue concerning a totally different party. There was a sketchy-looking situation that came on top of some other sketchy-looking situations and before I knew it, the words were fully formed and ready to spill out of my mouth. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit tapped me on my shoulder just in time and asked me what I thought I was doing, especially considering the spiritual tug of war I was already in because of The Inconsiderate Ones.
At least I learned the shut-your-mouth lesson quickly. But even with my mouth firmly shut, I still had that first problem to address: how to return to work without a low-level annoyance still simmering against these people?
The answer: I didn’t. I failed epically. I’ll tell you how next time.