Small Things –
It’s the small things that get us. A careless word, a roll of the eye, an exasperated sigh, a forgotten date, a critical comment when kindness would be better.
I spoke to a group of men this week about the importance of body language. It is estimated that 80% of our communication is done through hand gestures, facial expressions, posture, animated arms, and legs. Often, before even a word is said, we’ve said plenty. The “vibe” we give off from the way we stand, cross our arms, refuse to make eye contact gives messages of distance, frustration, and anger. Whatever our chosen words may be we’ve begun a conversation simply by being in the presence of others.
Small things can encourage or discourage dialogue. Tiny twitches can mean the difference between hurting someone’s feelings and lifting them up. Miniature motions can give away our opinion of another prior to us getting to know them.
I watched a video this week of a woman pontificating on Hillary Clinton and the rumor of the former presidential candidate. Her words were sharp and judgemental and her body language said even more. The spark of sarcasm in her eyes, the shaking of her head, the impish smirk, almost everything about her spoke of her disapproval. Toward the end of the video she spoke of love, forgiveness, and grace but nothing about her showed true humility, one sinner telling another where to find grace.
“What you do speaks so loudly I cannot hear what you say.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
A few weeks ago I was working outside in my overalls. A friend stopped by and was shocked I looked so “country.” “What are you wearing?” was the first thing he said to me. I was taken aback by how he couldn’t get over my overalls. “I actually have a couple of pairs and wear them to keep from getting too dirty, they have multiple pockets to put things in, and look great with my boots!” I thought he might faint. He’s known me primarily in work and play clothes, never in yard work attire. It was as if a pair of overalls changed his view of me.
Yesterday, I almost threw myself into a political/theological argument a friend was having on Facebook. I thought better of it and remembered that social media is not the place to have deep conversations. As I read the thread of the discussion the primary antagonist held several views I disagree with and supported his arguments with not so pleasant words of attacks and insults. I finally stopped reading the conversation because my view of this man was becoming negative, judgemental and I didn’t even know him!
His beliefs and convictions are not mine but too often, like my friend when seeing me in overalls, differing points of view cause us to see people in certain ways. We use political, theological and a host of other convictions as litmus tests to place people in certain categories, judge them as unworthy, unintellectual, strange, sinful, or label them in other insulting ways.
People are more than their outward appearances and opinions. When we allow our view of them to be shaped by what we see or hear on the outside we are actually revealing more about ourselves than them.
Ongoing Grace –
One of the hardest acts in life is letting go of the expectation of an apology from someone who has hurt, offended us. Many times, we never receive what we are tempted to think we deserve.
Not too long ago I received a surprising apology from someone who had hurt me years ago. They asked for forgiveness and I gave it to them. However, apologies can be tricky. When someone expresses regret about an action or harmful words our ability to forgive has much to do with our place on the journey of forgiveness. Saying the words; “I forgive you.” helps but rarely completely, instantly heals the wounds.
Since the apology, there have been moments of pain when I am reminded the wounds are still healing. Times when memories are relived and the urge to fall back into negative thoughts patterns, judgmental attitudes are present. It is here, on our journey, we realize forgiveness is not a one-time act or phrase but a process, an ongoing combination of acts, words, and intent of spirit. There are seasons, moments, instances when the past impresses itself on the present. Wisdom teaches us not to ignore, resent, or seek escape but to let it be a reminder that forgiveness in an ongoing act of grace.
This morning I burnt my tongue. I drank too much coffee, too fast and am paying the price. I’ve scalded my tongue before and it hurts, every time. I don’t like the pain or the sensation when I rub it against the roof of my mouth. There are treatments I could try to dull the discomfort but, from experience, time is the greatest healer.
As I’ve dealt with my injury this morning I’ve reflected on both the damage a tongue can receive and deliver. What if hot beverages and spicy foods weren’t the only ways to harm our tongues? What would happen if our tongues were burnt when we used words that were too hot, highly charged, and injured another? What if our speech inflicted wounds upon us when they did to our brothers and sisters? How much more careful might we be with careless, rushed, rude, insulting, judgmental language if we too felt the pain our words can cause?