Sometimes I find myself in a situation where I realize I would have been better off if I had taken my own advice. Back when I taught full time I had countless encounters with my second graders that went something like this:
Two upset children would approach me and begin whining/complaining/tattling about something that had been said or done. Immediately I would stop them. I would turn to one of them and say, “Tell me what your contribution to the problem was.” They would invariably respond “She….” and I would cut them off after word one. “Nope,” I replied, “Try again. I didn’t ask what she did, I asked what YOU contributed to the problem.” The funny thing was that when I got to the second student to ask the same question, you’d think they would have caught on. But they also would start their explanation with “SHE….” And I again I’d find myself saying “Nope. Try again. What was YOUR contribution to the problem?”
The lesson, (eventually, after lots of talking and some whining on the kid’s part) always came down to one thing: No one else is responsible for your actions. You alone bear the responsibility for your choices/actions/reactions. It doesn’t matter what the other person did to wrong, upset, or hurt you. They will bear the responsibility of that and have their own consequences but that does not excuse any wrongdoing of your own. Take responsibility and voice out loud what you did that was wrong. Then ask the person your wronged for forgiveness. Kids will spit out “I’m sorry” without a second thought, but require that they confess what they did and ask for forgiveness? It requires ownership of their own bad choices and admitting that you are in NEED of forgiveness.
I recently felt wronged by someone. They were (and probably still are) unaware that I had learned of something untruthful that was said. I am particularly sensitive to the issue of truth. That probably means I still struggle with wounds from my past…forgiveness is an ongoing and non-linear process, after all. As soon as I think I’ve handed something completely over to God an issue will arise that brings it all up again (Case in point…this recent occurrence). Regardless of the roots of my feelings relating to lies, my reaction tends to be deep. I was upset. I don’t know if my reaction was in proportion to the offence or not, but the bottom line is, I was angry and offended.
Now, I also have issues with confrontation. Can’t stand it. I mean, I can talk a big talk in my head or sound off in a safe place, but ten to one, none of those things will ever get voiced to the source of the frustration. I just can’t confront people directly. Actually, I did once and was so hot under the collar for so long and felt sick to my stomach over it that I learned a great deal of caution from the experience. I wish that meant I always handle things well. However, while direct confrontation may not be my style, being passive-aggressive is right up my alley. I didn’t say it was RIGHT but when I choose the low road (I wish I never did!) passive aggression is usually the route I will take.
This is all to say that I recently didn’t handle a situation the best I could have. As soon as I took the route I did, I knew I had reacted out of emotion, rather than thinking things through farther and then deciding on a rational course of action. My conversation with God then went something like this:
God: What did you do to contribute to the problem?
Me: This person said x, y, and z!!!!
God: Nope. That’s not what I asked. You let me deal with them. What did YOU choose to do that was wrong?
Me: But THEY haven’t even admitted or asked for forgiveness from ME!
God: NOPE. NOT what I asked. WHAT did YOU CHOOSE to do that was wrong?
After some talking (and perhaps some whining) I had to face the fact that it doesn’t matter whether the other person has apologized. I can’t be responsible for their actions or choices. There are times when confronting someone in a gentle way and facing things head on is the mature and correct way to handle things. In this situation it would serve no purpose. So what I am left needing to do is forgive (regardless of whether they’ve asked for it), and let it go, then take ownership of my own actions, apologize, and ask for forgiveness. It’s not fun but it’s what needs to be done.
Why am I writing about this? I suppose because I like to think, as an adult, I’m wiser than I used to be but I realize sometimes I’m the 2nd grader in the scenario. If I’m trying to teach my kids to take ownership of their behavior I’d better be taking ownership of my own. Hopefully it will serve as a reminder, next time, that it is much easier to exercise self-control to begin with.
2 Timothy 1:7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline.