The other day I got a text from a friend that was pretty sarcastic. Now we all know that texts can be ambiguous. They are condensed, and they can be conveying something different than what we want because spell check can change a word here and there until we wonder what we really were trying to write.
I wasn’t sure what this friend meant in her text that boarded on meanness. I wanted to give her the benefit of grace, so I totally ignored the malicious comment and said I was looking forward to seeing her soon.
A day passes and here came another text. And this one hit me in the gut. Knocked me off my pegs. There was no doubt about this text. She was mad. The text screamed of sarcasm, dripped of “aren’t you so good and lucky,” and oozed with criticism.
This was the last thing I expected. This attack against me. This disloyalty. I called my sister and we talked about it. In the end, I decided to ignore this last text. To solve this hurt, this misunderstanding, was not something a few words in a text could address. Nor would any text I could tap out convey the right tone, address her hurt, or even begin to solve anything.
I tried not to take it personally, but as the day wore on, it would creep into my thoughts and I could hear the words of my mind defending myself and this other person or two she had accused. At least I was not alone, I had other bad company to hang my head with.
The next morning while my husband is shaving, we are having our morning talk. Connecting over morning rituals in a warm steamy bathroom. We briefly talk about the texts and where this person was coming from.
“She is in pain,” he says. “And she is not thinking straight. And the texts are not really about you, they are about past hurts with others and life and it is so complicated.”
I knew he was right. I felt his wisdom as he rinsed the white cream from his blue razor and patted his face with the towel. For when I stepped away from myself and tried to pick up her eyeglasses that she wears and see the world through her eyes, I could see where she was coming from. I could see the pain she has been carrying for years, could hear the lies she has been believing for years.
And then my husband says, “We need to pray her.”
My eyes widen a bit and I feel myself recoil a bit, but then I relaxed and felt myself nodding. He was right. I had been so focused on myself, I had forgotten about praying for those who offend me. She was not usually my enemy, but at the moment it felt like she was beating me with sticks and stones. Because words really do hurt more than we pretend they do.
Of course, my husband was right. Prayer changes hearts, changes others, and situations. But most of all it helps us see things and people from God’s perspective. It provides a new lens for us to see through.
When we pray about a situation, our pain, or someone else’s pain, we are putting it in God’s hands. We are admitting we don’t have the right answer, the solution, the healing touch to restore our relationship. When we pray, we are trying not to take it personally. We are admitting we need help. They need help.
The truth is, and often we don’t want to hear it because we are screaming in pain ourselves, but the truth is that when someone lashes out at us in pain, anger, hurt, disgust, shame, and grief, they are hurting too. The truth is that often they are experiencing pain themselves. That is why they lash out. Pain most often responds in pain.
Pain causes us to let our guard down and act mean and say hurtful things. Pain removes our rational thinking.
Pain causes us to do things we are embarrassed about latter. Deep emotional pain over an injustice, at our self and behavior, at things that happen to us, at so many things too numerous to count, causes us to recoil and strike at others and sometimes our self. We don’t like to be in pain all by our self, so we try to spread it around. Help others experience a little of the pain we are experiencing. We lash out and hurl bitter words at the nearest person available or someone who we think won’t knock us down more than we already are.
Now I am not saying that people should lash out at one another, or that we should abuse or mistreat one another. No, we need to recognize our pain and deal with it so we don’t knock those around us down like bowling pins.
What I am saying is that often the person who is hurling stones around and manages to hit you with a bullseye, is often in pain and reacting to their own pain. And if we remember this, we don’t get so caught up in the drama and take it all so personally. We can react in a healthier manner than they are.
So next time someone lashes out in pain, knocks your teeth together, pierces your heart with a pick ax, or crushes your spirit with a steam roller, remember that as much as you want to rear our head back and knock them over with the force of your own choice words, stop and remember they are in pain and that is why they are responding the way they are.
Maybe a soft answer, a hug, a listening ear, or a time apart would be better than our first response. When you are attacked, and smarting in pain from another’s caustic words, that person was already in pain before they attacked you. And if you and I remember this, and etch it on our brain, maybe we can respond with something other than our own pain.