As far as weeks go, I’d say this was my least favorite of the year thus far. I hope to not have many more like it and if I can help it, perhaps none at all.
I fought with my friends. And I was all in my feelings about it. We all were. It was bound to happen. I have this terrible thing that I do. I keep the important things to myself, so when it comes out, it comes out wrong. Loud and wrong. Sometimes, it’s bad because at that point, it isn’t just one thing, it’s a million things. And when you’re secretly harboring a feeling, it will tug at you and magnify just about everything that a person or people do. That is not to dismiss my own feelings or to say that they weren’t legitimate. They were. But by the end of the conversation, there were hurt feelings all over the place. I mean, going-for-blood-fighting-with-siblings kind of hurt feelings. It can take awhile to recover from that sort of thing. Despite the great displeasure about the whole ordeal, an unforeseen lesson came from it.
Paul the Apostle writes a letter to the Philippians, expressing gratitude and love for them. They were so enthusiastic about the Gospel and he wrote to them from jail to say, “Thank you! I’m proud of you! Keep loving God, keep living Christ!” He gave them some advice about how to go about doing that, how to treat each other, what it means to suffer for the cause. Even though this book is an expression of joy, a sincere letter to a group of faithful people, it hit me kind of hard this week. I read it several times in the last few days. Chapter 2 begins with a punch:
“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”
– Philippians 2:1-5, NIV
Well, then! I couldn’t help but feel some conviction. Paul is telling these lovers of Christ to be a blessing to others. This made me think long and hard about the dispute I had with my friends.
When we are doing all of the things we should do, when the Holy Spirit is working through us, unchallenged, Paul’s instruction is pretty easy. Admittedly until recently, it’s been pretty easy. People see a change in you when you’re in line with Christ, when you are chasing God. So when I fell out of step and got a little ugly, it mattered. In the conversations following the argument, it was made clear to me that I matter to people. I learned how people really feel, the esteem to which I am held in the eyes of others. I had no idea. And it was easy for me to say hurtful things when my back was against the wall, because I had no idea that I truly was a blessing to others. I guess what I am saying is that I didn’t realize the gravity of my words, just as I am sure they hadn’t realized the gravity of theirs.
Could it be that when we hurt each other, we lose sight of our own worth to others? How interesting and ironic is it that when one humbles themselves and treats others with love and kindness, gentleness and the like, they are the ones held in high esteem! I don’t do it for that, though. I do it because I don’t like hurting people’s feelings. It hurts to hurt others. I am not built that way. When I was in preschool, this girl, who was kind of a bully, told me to poke another little girl in the eye while she was napping. I only did it because I wanted to please the bully. But I made that little girl cry, and I felt terrible. I wanted to hug her and say I’m sorry. Instead, I ran over to my mat and pretended I was napping. I felt guilty. It doesn’t feel to good to hurt people. Even as small children, we find ourselves desiring to put other people’s feelings before our own out of care or concern. It’s innate, I suppose.
And very much like that time I poked that little girl in the eye, I felt the same here. When humility is a priority, we set ourselves up to live like Christ, because we are putting others before us. When we are not in line with Christ, we fall short. We become oblivious to our actions and how much value we hold in the eyes of our brothers and sisters.
I learned that even in my anger, I have to be sensitive to the fact that as a Christian, it isn’t justified to be careless with other people’s feelings. I didn’t think much of the things I said because to be honest, I could hardly remember what I said, I was so angry and had my own hurt feelings. But what I realize is that I HAVE to think much, very much of these things. I am a blessing to others in God’s kingdom, and I am responsible for placing their concerns, interests, thoughts and feelings above my own. When you are trying to give life to the teachings of Jesus, it comes with the territory.
And I’ll be honest, I REALLY hope they feel the same way too. I’ll end with this, from James 1:36 (NIV),
“If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.”
submitted by: alexis w.