As a woman, I’m a pretty emotional person. I wouldn’t say that I’m easily offended or get my feelings hurt a lot, but I definitely feel. Over the years I’ve found a pretty important tool for tempering my response to someone else’s selfishness or cruelty. I’m going to share that with you in a bit. First, I want to talk about why having the correct response when someone is mean to you is important.
You might be the only one exposing their issues.
When someone is rude, and your knee-jerk response is to be rude in return, they don’t notice their behavior, they see yours. It’s the same with disciplining kids. If they did something wrong, but you’re yelling at them, they don’t pay attention to their problem; they’re too focused on how you’re the one being a jerk. If you turn on the nice vibes, it’s easier for them to see that they’re the problem.
When you nurture hurt and anger towards someone, it affects you and the ones you love. It’s not about being right or wrong. Do you have a right to be mad at what they did? Yes. Is using this right going to make things better for you? No. When we are younger, we act on our emotions. As we grow and mature and raise a family of our own, we discover how to balance them (I talk about that in this post here). Feeling things is normal. Letting your feelings rule over you to a point where it destroys you is unwise.
You don’t know what they’re going through.
This leads to what I mentioned earlier as being the biggest tool in responding correctly to unfair treatment: empathy. Often, not always, but often enough, when people are cruel it’s because this is what they’ve experienced. It’s a sad truth, but violence and abuse perpetuate a cycle of more of the same. Now I’m not saying you shouldn’t call people out for being disrespectful, but you can use empathy and compassion to take off the edge of the anger in your heart.
A habit that I have formed over the years is to quickly acknowledge when things are getting heated in conversation (or text, as the case may sometimes be) and to quickly humble yourself. I pointedly take the opposite stance of what I’m feeling, because my feelings are being compromised. I then try to apologize or say things that will mollify the other person. Is it always my fault? Nope. Is it right that I should always be the one to bow? Actually, it’s better for me, because it helps me get a handle on my emotions.
I had a situation once where I wasn’t getting along with a friend who I actually cared very deeply for. I was struggling with anger because I felt the way she was treating me was unfair. The way that I healed my anger was that I acted in a way opposite to what I felt. I wanted to ignore her as she was ignoring me, so I went out of my way to ask how she was doing, and talk about the things she liked. I also tried to buy her small gifts and bring her food. All while I was upset. It didn’t change the way she acted toward me, but it changed my heart. I was able to release and forgive her and move on with my life without bitterness ruining me.
I think most Christians consider themselves pretty good people until they read the Sermon on the Mount. In case you’re unfamiliar with it, Jesus basically tells us that as Christians we have to lay down our rights. Turn the other cheek. Go the extra mile. But what people don’t get is this: it’s not just for the other person’s benefit. It’s not so people think you’re holy or something. You will genuinely have a happier and more fulfilled life if the Sermon on the Mount is your standard.
The opposite of what the world believes is true. The world says, protect yourself at all costs. God says, put someone else first and let me protect you. The world says, it’s your right to take revenge. God says, revenge hurts your heart. Let me take care of it. The world says, act on what you feel. God says, submit your feelings to truth. Do only what will help you and others.
Note: if you think you might be in an abusive relationship, seek advice from a pastor or counselor.
If you liked this post, you might like Why God Lets You Wait.
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