Behaving badly

For months I seethed and ruminated, but in the end, I was the one who had behaved badly. Held anger, bitterness, resentment. Rolled my questions over and over as if wrapping a corpse I could not bury. Why did they? How could they? Why don’t they?

And God showed me I’ve been doing this all my life. Do we all do it, I wonder?

When someone I love hurts me, I withdraw. I resent. I take myself out of Trust.

As a child, I erected a wall with a book. If mom and dad hurt or demanded, bingo! I disappeared into the pages of some deep novel. And I mean deep. It was Victor Hugo, or Charles Dickens, anything of ancient Europe, where noblemen and lovely ladies clashed against the constraints of culture, expectation, and evil overlords. My mind grasped the sword of justice and flailed willingly.

When I came back to Earth, my father told me “Life isn’t fair.”

I did not want to hear that. Life should be fair, I informed him–and the rest of the world. I went out into career as a journalist, where maybe I could do something about it.  Instead, I found that life was not fair.

Nor are relationships.

For years I posted this quote at my computer: Be kinder than necessary, for everyone is fighting some kind of battle.

And most of those battles are unseen. We do such a good job of hiding our struggles and covering up failings.

What was my battle that day when I failed and chose anger? Weeks of watching my mother battle mental illness, seeing her half dressed, clutching a cheap nightgown that fell open on bare flesh, listening to stuttering words, repeated nonsense. Overloaded with worries, she cracked, and I was her reluctant glue. Add then my husband, in his battle, failing to fight, and coming home under the influence of that other world–aided that day by these so-called friends. I made a call, left a seething message. I sought retribution and got silence. So my battle raged, internally.

At the age I am, my father’s brain was beginning to kill him. For an unknown time, it had allowed cancer cells to form. No one suspected a thing until he woke up in the night with a seizure and could not recall who was president. Nine years and four surgeries later, he died, aged 58.

My father was a preacher’s son who rebelled but returned to faith at age 35. Still, later in life, he wrangled with the powers that be over some work issue and fell into anger and bitterness. They had robbed him somehow. But the bitterness took more than what they stole from his pocket. I asked him one day, did the anger maybe open the door to cancer? I was walking in my own rebellion then, so perhaps the question surprised him. But he did not hesitate with the answer. He said yes.

Four months into my own latest prison of anger, the grace of God allowed me to make that call, to try to reconcile with the friend who angered me. Through my friend’s words, I found myself not righteous but wrong. From the other side, it was me who had behaved badly. My cold words had caused my friend to stay away, to “not subject” herself to “that.” That being me and my anger.

Boiled down to that, I trembled, crumbled and cried. “I’m just trying to hold my life together,” I said.

With coldness, retaliation, and unforgiveness.

I apologized, and instantly, the temptation came to justify, to hate this humbling, to wave my sword and say this is not fair.

There is nothing so humbling as to choose Christ’s way when (in your own mind) you are so clearly in the right. Is this what they call death to self? I tell you, I hate it! And yet, there is a sweetness, like the juice of grapes being crushed. How else is new wine made?

By loving someone even when they are behaving badly. Giving and forgiving. My eyes have been opened, but the battle continues.

The Christ I follow loved us and died for us even as we loved our own desires and despised his truth. He did not say “Behave well and I’ll love you.” He loved us even as we behaved very badly.

Our culture teaches us self-protection. It teaches us to set boundaries for those who take too much, to wall off those who hurt us. It teaches us to divorce husbands or wives and close the doors against children and parents who let us down with their failings. It teaches us that we have a right to protect ourselves from such hurt.

Christ said: Turn the other cheek.

Ask Him for the grace to do so.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Behaving badly

  1. findingthemotherlode says:

    OK, this got me:
    “My mind grasped the sword of justice and flailed willingly.

    When I came back to Earth, my father told me “Life isn’t fair.”

    Thanks for the post. Heartfelt, heart rending.

    We have a lot in common. My mom suffered multiple breakdowns when I was a youngster. Actually, she suffered all the years I grew up from ages 8 – 21. Yes, life is unfair. Dad was an alcoholic, workaholic.

    But I live to tell the story that God has redeemed.I’ve been His since I was 16, and He has been delivering me ever since from the broken past.

    God bless.

  2. mkayla says:

    I just popped into your blog and I am so amazed. I’m wondering WHO IS THIS PERSON – ME? We have so much in common and I wanted to write you a little note to SCREAM that out! The charismania, prophetic, dreams and visions garbage, but more importantly a more recent article Behaving Badly. Wow my friend. I had these same thoughts and was just considering I should settle myself into some biblical study on how I have been reacting to some very bad treatment from others; have I returned it in the way Christ would have.. NOOO! And that’s when I just happened to take a peek at your blog.

    I am still buzzing. Eheh
    God bless and I will be reading more.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s