So, there I was, ready to return to school from the holidays but still unsure how to handle interacting with The Inconsiderate Ones. I spoke to a second not-here friend about the situation before the holidays were over – someone who is pretty steady emotionally – and she advised me, as my first not-here friend had, to just ignore them because they weren’t worth my emotional energy.
My two not-here friends didn’t get it. My struggle wasn’t about The Inconsiderate Ones, per se. My struggle was about my response to The Inconsiderate Ones. No matter how I looked at it and no matter how I tried to process it, I couldn’t find peace about my usual approach of ignoring them unless it had something to do specifically with work. I mean, ignoring them sounded like a reasonable solution, especially because that’s my natural inclination anyway. In my mind, and in the minds of my two not-here friends, engaging with The Inconsiderate Ones on any level that didn’t directly involve work would make me a hypocrite and that’s something I try very hard not to be. But something felt off about going that way.
Still, I didn’t manage to figure it out before school re-started so I spent the first two days back at school ignoring The Inconsiderate Ones, except for giving them the basic courtesy greetings in a pleasant enough way. For those two days, the situation continued to niggle at me, even though I don’t think it was evident to anyone else around me. This seemed like the emotionally mature thing to do: be professional while avoiding being a hypocrite. I finally came to understand, though, that while it might be the emotionally mature thing to do, it wasn’t the spiritually mature thing to do. I couldn’t get peace because God wanted more from me than this.
He took pity on me through a third not-here friend, who helped me to grasp that elusive something that I had been trying to get a hold of but kept missing for a whole week and a half. He orchestrated a timely conversation with her and she totally got what my other two not-here friends had kept missing.
My third not-here friend pointed out to me that my “ignore them” approach was actually me going against my nature. I’m just not the type of person who ignores people. At my core – the basic me, as my third not-here friend calls it – I’m friendly, I engage people and I’m free with encouragement and compliments. Freezing out people takes energy from me because it means that I’m deliberately going against who God made me to be. My third not-here friend also pointed out that I’m the type of person who, “goes to the length and breadth for the people you like and love. Giving them the length and breadth would make you a hypocrite. Giving them the basic you is the right thing to do.”
She so got it. She hit the nail on the head so hard. As soon as she said it, I felt the rightness of that perspective. She was talking about love and I’m not sure she even realised it. I had known before that love was the answer but I had been unable to wrap my mind around how to love them authentically without being a hypocrite. My third not-here friend hit me with clarity: in this instance, love means not withholding my natural self despite others’ unattractive attitudes. I don’t have to hang out with these people and I don’t have to seek them out to spend time with them. But I do have to give them the basic me, which does not include being cold and distant.
I confessed my sin to God of being unloving (and somewhat judgy, always struggling with that one, it seems), put the deep freeze away and brought the basic me back out with The Inconsiderate Ones. But God wasn’t done with the lesson; He still needed to show me the possible fallout of my actions. Two days after I got my act together, during my devotions (He had me start off January with a study of the book of James, which is particularly appropriate for this training session), He lead me to this quote from Joyce Meyer:
I can reject what someone does without rejecting them. They may not become my best friend, but I can keep the door open for ministry opportunities. I can show basic human kindness.
I had endangered my Christian witness (people here know that Jesus is the love of my life, including The Inconsiderate Ones) because my behaviour, in as much as it was professional, was most un-Christlike. I see now that the right thing to have done was to have returned to school with my usual open attitude, perhaps making a light comment about how their poor behaviour had come across, getting it out in the open that I disagreed with them but wasn’t going to let that affect how I treated them or interacted with them on a basic level. Yes, that would have been the right thing to do.
So I ended my first God-ordained training session of the new year not feeling particularly good about myself but having processed the lesson pretty thoroughly.
Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear , O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31 (NASB)
And there is no excuse in the world that exempts anyone from being treated that way by me. Lord, help me to pass the next test for this lesson!