I listened to a conversation this week where the person told another, to their face, that they hated them. “I hated you when you left,” they said. “It took a long time to not hate you anymore.” It was an honest and startling admission. Most times people are adept at not showing the person they hate their true feelings.
It left me with a question; “Have I ever, in my life, hated someone?” I define hate; as the inability to see the good in someone. As I reflected on the question a person came to mind. If I’ve ever hated someone, according to my definition, this man fit the criteria. I had the hardest time seeing the good, the light, the benefit of his existence, the unique expression of God in him. It was, at times, impossible to not be suspicious of his motives, think of the worst outcome of his decisions, belittle his beliefs and talents. Then, one day, ranting in my head about something he had done the question came from out of the blue; “Can you see any good in this man?” My mind stopped dead in its tracks. The answer was “no, I couldn’t.” It was then I realized the problem wasn’t him it was me.
I’d love to post about how this moment fixed everything but it didn’t. However, it did give me a new way of looking at this person and my role in the frustration, anxiety, and chaos within me. It took me a long time to forgive the hurt and betrayal he had caused but I began focusing on what was going on inside of me instead of what someone was doing on the outside. This made all the difference.
“You will never see God until you can see Him in every next face you see.” #SaintMotherTeresa
I heard a story today about a chaplain who worked in a veteran’s hospital in the 1950’s. There was an African-American soldier in the hospital who had lost a leg in the Korean War. The physical therapists had worked with him trying to get him used to wear a prosthetic leg. Both the soldier and medical personnel tried everything they could think of but nothing worked and the soldier was ready to give up and live life with one leg and crutches for the rest of his life.
The chaplain was made aware of the situation and stopped by soldier’s bed one night to see if he could be of any help. “I can still feel my leg, my real leg!” the soldier cried. “It’s a phantom pain.” replied the chaplain, “It will go away in time.” “That leg!” retorted the soldier gesturing toward the prosthetic one, “will never be ‘my’ leg.” After visiting with the young man the chaplain prayed with him and asked if he could take the prosthetic one with him. The soldier responded with a shrug.
The next day the chaplain returned with the same leg except it was painted a shade of brown to more closely match the soldier’s own skin tone. “What did you do?” asked the perplexed soldier. The chaplain, hoping he hadn’t offended the young man said he took it home with him and thought painting it might make it seem more palatable. “That’s all you did?” asked the soldier admiring the leg. “That’s it.” smiled the chaplain. The chaplain helped the young man to the side of the bed, attached the leg, helped him take his first few steps and from that day forward the soldier made remarkable progress.
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. The chaplain helped the soldier not by insisting he use resources given to him by the hospital but by listening and understanding what the soldier was going through and then adapting his help to the soldier’s personal, unique need.
Too often we see people who need assistance and we automatically assume there are places and resources that are available. We surmise that if someone wants help enough they’ll figure out how to get it. The truth is everyone’s story is unique and unless we listen, understand and are willing to personally get involved many will go on suffering and being blamed for doing so.
Blow it Out –
I am sitting in the living room waiting for a plumber. We have an issue with the plumbing and have tried everything we know to alleviate the problem. However, try as we might, whatever’s holding things up is beyond our capabilities (which isn’t saying much!).
So, a phone call, an appointment made and now we wait. We’re relatively sure it’s a clog and hoping he’ll find what’s stopping the works, blow it out-of-the-way with water or air and we’ll be good to go.
As I listen for the sound of a vehicle pulling down our driveway I’m reflecting on the need for my own pipes to be blown out at times. One of the reasons I go to therapy is so my mind, emotions and spirit can be cleaned out. Friends, mentors, sponsors, pastors and other trusted folk can also make good cleaners.
The truth is there are times we need to be unclogged so life and our souls can flow freely. If we’re unable or unwilling to be available and vulnerable for a good cleaning we can find ourselves flooded, polluted and unable to flow freely.