We all know the school yard saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” It’s a lie.
When bones are broken, they heal. In most cases, there is no residual sign of there ever having been a break. The same cannot be said true of words. While words leave no physical sign of their presence, (talking long term signs, not crying for a few minutes, etc,) there is also nothing that can directly be done to heal and repair the damage. Once they’ve gone out, there is no recall button, and you most certainly cannot delete the experience from the memory of another.
But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.
So what’s got me riled up over something that seems so obvious? I was the recipient of a message recently that caught me very off guard, set me on edge, physically upset me, and sent me questioning myself.
So, before I post the message itself here, a little background info.
My husband’s grandmother is on social media. She got a tablet earlier this year and so, initially got sucked into it by the flash games, but eventually took to it due to the ability to ‘check up on people’ (paraphrase of her words, not mine.) At some point in time, we ceased being “friends.” Being part of the generation that was raised with technology, I am comfortable enough with social media to understand the ins and outs; how to “unfriend” from news feed or from their page. Using something for an extended period of time will foster such a level of comfort and understanding. So when it became clear to me that we were no longer “friends,” it seemed fairly logical to me that the “unfriending” likely happened on her end.
Now, I have heard of the “bug” that randomly “unfriends” people. In some digging, however, I am not so convinced that it’s as rampant as some wish to claim. (It does make a good cover for those that genuinely wish to stop seeing posts that they deem annoying but do not wish to deal with the confrontation that may come from being called on “unfriending” when the other party asked what they did and wishes to make amends.) In this situation, I never doubted that it was an accident, regardless of how it happened. Never once did the thought that it was actually malicious cross my mind. I’ve known her nearly as long as I have my husband and have always gotten along with her. So I didn’t think there would be any harm in joking with her some about the event before confirming the resent “friend” request.
I see that you want to be friends again… but I’m not accepting until you tell me what I did to make you remove me in the first place.
I’d think that anyone that has known me for any amount of time, would not take that as serious under any circumstances. Putting aside the fact that the use of the emoticon with the tongue (by internet protocol) makes the joking intent clear to anyone that has been online for any length of time. Evidently I was gravely wrong because two hours later I received her response.
I did not remove you! I have two friends that I didn’t request to be friends but somehow a request was sent them when I was scrolling their pages. These things happen which I’m sure you know. If you’re done with me that’s your choice but I won’t play these kind of games with you when the person who would be hurt and put in the middle is [my husband].
Once I read that, I remember blinking a few times and putting down my cell as my stomach churned. I had been hungry moments before, (logical since I hadn’t eaten all day to that point- about 2pm,) but that hunger had evaporated. For the first few minutes it felt as though I had just been kicked in the gut. I didn’t know what to think or say. Eventually I told my husband about it and read her comment to him before telling him how her response made me feel.
Within a few minutes I was asking him if I was wrong. Was I the one that, in fact, was overreacting? Was I the one that was making this into a big deal? Was I seeing something where there was in fact, nothing? He reassured me that it wasn’t me, but that wasn’t enough for my brain. It actually wasn’t until yesterday afternoon that it seemed to finally click with me as to why this affected me so much.
For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
Hate to admit that it took me almost 24 hours to realize that was the heart of why her response hurt me so much.
To elaborate, I realized that the person that I thought I presented to the world is one that is loving, easy going, friendly, quick to take an opportunity to joke and consistent. Her response made me realize that clearly, that’s not what she has seen from me, evidently. It seems that she has instead, seen someone that is judgmental, quick to cut people off entirely, spiteful, derisive, and looking to drive a wedge between my husband and his family. I spent the most of yesterday questioning whether or not my own view of myself could possibly be so far askew from the reality of what she experienced.
For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.
1 Corinthians 11:31
In the end, the only thing that I found going through my head was:
Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. Genesis 2:24
And suddenly it made sense to me why it was the man that had to do the leaving. Women are drama. (Okay, stop laughing, I know it’s obvious.) But truly, where there are women, there is drama. But if, by chance there is none, just give it time and they will create it. Bringing a new woman into a family structure creates a power struggle where each one must complete against the others to assert their power and importance. Especially when there is a man that is being “competed” for.
But God directs the man to step away and be joined with his wife. Not to have her mesh into his family, but to have him create his own family with his wife (the two become one,) thereby becoming more a part of her family than it appears she would become of his family that he left.
So before long, I understood that the problem was on her end. She had an issue with me where I saw none.
Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
I want to be reconciled with her, but right now, I truly am not sure how to go about that. Later in the evening after getting her message, I wanted to reply, but I felt I needed to gird my tongue or well, in this case, fingers. (Proverbs 21:23). I couldn’t bring myself to respond directly to her comments because escalating things is not something I ever care to do, but I also felt that I couldn’t reply with anything along the lines of, ‘I’m not sure you realize what you’ve said, but know you’re forgiven,” because I felt that that as well could escalate things. So I remained silent and just “confirmed” the request.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned about how last night would go. It was Bible study, which she had her husband have only rarely missed since starting to attend. Since she has not always had the best concept of appropriate times and locations for discussions, (she once delayed a women’s Bible study class for several minutes to tell me about a discussion she had with her husband about kittens my husband and I had been fostering,) I was concerned that she would wish to do the same thing last night to clear the air. While I wasn’t concerned so much about getting things cleared up, I didn’t feel it was something that needed to be discussed in front of close to 20 other people. Of course I went to God with my concerns, and it turned out I was worried for nothing; they didn’t show up last night, and there was, (I guess not surprisingly,) not text to say they were not going to be there.
Tonight is another women’s study. As things sit right now, (after last night,) I would be surprised if she shows tonight. Right now I am concerned that she will use this perceived “issue” as an excuse to not attend Bible study or even church. Nothing and no one should ever be able to come between your relationship and your obedience to God.
I will say though, that I have already witnessed some good coming from this. My husband called me this morning just before 6:30 am. He begins work then, so you can imagine my first question of “What’s wrong?” He expressed that it seemed as though this whole thing with his grandmother was affecting him physically and asked for me to call her to try and work things out. I told him that I had thought of going over to their house to talk to her face to face, (because I was concerned that, if she could so easily misunderstand an online communication, I was concerned that the same could happen over the phone,) but I didn’t feel that would be received well. He concurred, suggested calling to see if it was okay for me to go over and talk to her, and then recanted.
He started to open up about his own frustration with his family; not just his grandmother, but his own mother as well. He explained how their obsession with protecting him and trying to make sure that nothing hurt anyone within the family was actually causing more pain. Then he said that he personally (not wanted,) but needed to talk to her about it. I hadn’t thought it possible, but in that moment, I think I started to love him a bit more.
but, speaking the truth in love,
We cannot hide in a hole our entire lives, afraid of causing a hurt or for fear of being hurt. Hurts will happen in this life. We are all human and we all make mistakes. They are unavoidable. What makes the difference is how one responds. Will you lash back, or will you seek to cover the transgression with love, showing compassion and continuing on?
He who covers a transgression seeks love,
But he who repeats a matter separates friends.
Because hurt is inevitable, that is not permission to conduct yourself as the bull in a china shop, (despite Mythbusters debunking). We should always still conduct ourselves in a manner that is pleasing to the Lord and shows love for others. But you must still live and fulfill the mission that God has for you. Just pack a box of band-aids.