It started with a statement, something I took as an accusation. A simple phrase and defenses were awoken. A return was uttered and escalation ensued. With justification as the primary goal, brick by brick words were laid and cemented in carelessness by myself until empathy was an afterthought. Compassion evaporated under the shadow of the wall I had constructed, a wall that barred communication, blocked effective listening, wounding my spouse, and ushering a darkness into the atmosphere of my home that was palpable. Late for work, this was the aura I left behind for my bride to manage our home and children in; a state of discord, dysfunction, and disunion. I later learned that my actions had ramifications throughout the day for six people besides myself as small ones acted out, older ones displayed rebellious actions and words, and a mother was forced to lay aside her own hurts to reign in the myriad of divergent disobediences bubbling forth. When presented the opportunity, instead of reaching for love, I had reached for the ugly and the consequences sent tremors throughout the foundation of my entire home.
An ongoing struggle I wrestle with, and I believe many wrestle with, is the knowledge that our actions impact far beyond just our own person, far beyond ourselves. "No man is an island", seems a sensible statement but is not truly something I believe as I often attempt to walk through this life troubling as few people as possible. I will readily move to aid others but it is difficult for me to receive it. I don't want to impose the needs of my life into others'. Consequently I have, and I would say many have, developed a sense of their own thoughts and actions being somewhat disconnected from the thoughts and actions of others. In this, there is a lack of consequence for what you or I choose to do if the intent is truly innocent in our own thinking and we perceive it to only "affect me". The problem in this thinking is
1.) it is completely self-focused and creates a disconnect between you and everyone around you and
2.) it is completely false as we all impact and are affected by each other whether we realize it or not
Of a particularly foolish line of thought is the notion that I should somehow have any portion of a disconnect from or should somehow fail to affect those I am supposed to be closest to - those in my own home. Yet I have repeatedly erred on this front. With regard to my bride above, I was correcting an inaccuracy, a perceived wrong. Further, I was willing to justify myself and lay forth a case of evidence that needed to be heard. None of this should have had any negative effect on anyone. The only intent was to logically lay forth argument that needed to be heard and to reach the enevitable conclusion: that she was wrong and I was correct. Love or Ugly?
I was wrong. I was wrong in attitudes let alone in action. I have since apologized to my bride and her beautiful heart has forgiven me, but not before I realized something. Hypothetically what if the tables were turned? What if she had been completely wrong and knew it and I were completely right and she knew it as well. And in this what if she still were to insist in the validity of her points and the correct-ness of her views. (Those who know my bride know this is the antithesis of her character). Would I still reach for love by swallowing that pride and seeking reconciliation over justification, by pursuing harmony over legitimacy? Or would I reach for the ugly and stand fast until she realized the absolute error of her ways?
How many of us do this in the home? At work? In the Church?
How many of us are willing to overlook the slights, the misbehavior of others, the mistreatment of others to reach for love when it is so much easier and, in many cases, justified to reach for something more in line with what that individual deserves. Very often this is, at the very minimum, a piece of our mind. At the very least we simply ignore them, politely nod or speak to them but have little to do with them. But are we ever willing to lay ourselves down for them? Are we willing to lay ourselves down for someone else even if it requires us to lay down our pride? Or is our pride the line we refuse to cross - "I'll go this far God, but don't ask me to humiliate myself!"
Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.
Colossians 3:12-13 NLT
The Holy One of the Heavens, the embodiment of the spoken Word who resides in majesty beyond description poured himself into a frail human body becoming God in a fully human form subject to our wounds, our temptations, even our discomforts. This being of magnificence beyond comprehension was then subject to the entirety of hell's fury and punishment for my misdeeds, for yours, for the misdeeds of the thief, the murderer, the pedophile, the liar, the cruel and the wicked. The mold has already been broken for humiliation. He beckons, "I've endured it all. I've carried the weight, now follow."
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. I will ease and relieve and refresh your souls. Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle, meek, and humble, lowly in heart, and you will find rest, relief and ease and refreshment and recreation and blessed quiet for your souls.
Matthew 11:28-29 AMP
It never matters whether you or the other individual is in the right or the wrong. When you have opportunity to reach for love and humility or to justify always choose the former, anything else is simply reaching for the ugly.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
Philippians 2:3-4 NIV