Have you ever had someone set you free with their words?
What about the opposite? Have you ever come away from a conversation and felt so misunderstood, condemned, or boxed in by someone’s opinion of you or your situation?
One time I wrote a blog post that offended a person I respected, a spiritual leader. He sent me a hurtful, condemning comment that made me feel completely misunderstood. He decided, from behind his keyboard, that what I had written was a personal affront to him, though it wasn’t, and he retaliated, cutting me down with scorn. I still hear the condemnation and alienation in that comment sometimes, on my worst days, when I’m beating myself up about everything.
Another time, I was hurt by something a different spiritual mentor said to me. He was a friend and I had grown in confidence and identity in my own life enough to be comfortable with going to him to tell him I had been hurt by his comment and try to explain myself. I honestly expected him to retaliate and try to put me in my place like that other person and so many others have done, so I went with a very guarded heart. His response was completely unexpected, and quite wonderful. He said, in effect, “I love you so much and I support you, and I did not mean to hurt you, and will always be in your corner. I’m sorry. Please forgive me.”
That was it. No condemnation. No defensiveness. No blame-shifting. No manipulation. No disclaimers. He didn’t turn it into a big drama, he didn’t talk about me behind my back. He didn’t act shocked. It was as though he were already in an easy habit of making things right with people and then going forward without resentment or bitterness or offense. And truly, he treated me just as warmly after that conversation as he did before.
It was a wonderful feeling of freedom and relief that came over me as a result of that interaction. I felt loved. I felt heard. I still hear the grace and leadership and kindness and humility in that response sometimes. It was also empowering – the memory of that warmth has helped me to be a better wife and parent and leader too, and extend the same easy understanding and grace.
We have the power to free each other and to extend grace and kindness. We have the ability to condemn and alienate. We are very powerful in our choices toward those around us. God gave us this power; it is a sign of His love for us, and His style of creativity, that He created us free to decide how we will treat others. For better or worse.
Jesus had this ability to smooth things over, to be kind and honest at the same time, to render a situation down to its base motives. He had a freshness about him. He was interested in relationship and connection. He really saw people. Religion has a different air about it. It is easily offended, controlling, condemning, alienating, refusing to see, demanding, self-serving.
Do you want to make a refreshing difference in this controlling, offended, demeaning, misunderstanding world?
Set people free. See them. Find the words that help them. Don’t take it personally. Extend grace. This is part of bringing the Kingdom to earth, of reordering the chaos and darkness with the love and beauty of Jesus.
“The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook a transgression.” Proverbs 19:11