I’ve always tried to teach my kids to “Do the right thing.” Apologize. Be kind. Take into consideration another person’s feelings…. Do more than is required. For the most part, I would say that I have succeeded well. My kids are confident, compassionate, well-rounded young adults. I am proud of them.
But these character traits are only what I would consider standard “good people” qualities. They should be what everyone does. Although we all know folks who seem to have no such internal guidance systems, we would like to think of them as the exception, not the rule. There is good in everybody.
But what about doing the right thing when we’ve been wronged?
We’re supposed to have grace, right? I don’t mean the kind we extend when we are inconvenienced or when someone we love falls short somehow. The kind I am talking about here is the everything-you’ve-got-in-you-kind-of-grace, when someone really lets you down — betrayed you, hurt you, demeaned you in some egregious way. Then what…? How do we dig deep and not act as our feelings say we should?
How do we not fight fire with fire?
I’ve had some experience in this long season I’ve been in. It doesn’t take much for our imaginations to come up with a list. We can rattle it off. It shows in the lines of our faces that have weathered a storm or two. These storms have names. I bet you have a few of them too.
As a mom, I am always aware that I am being watched. “I wonder what Mom is going to say when…” Whether it is to notice my reaction, or simply to learn from it, I can’t help at times feel like I am on display. There are awkward things we all go through, when company gets mixed with old wounds and fresh expectations. When our past and present realities collide.
I would like to think that I walk my talk. I want for my kids, and others, to know that I practice what I preach. God has a few things to say about turning the other cheek. I know He wants for us to carry Him into every situation, so that we let Him have the floor, not us. Even when it is difficult. Even when it feels as though you would rather eat glass than be nice to someone who has not been kind to you — or worse, destroyed some part of your life, wellbeing, or happiness.
What are we are supposed to do?
The truth is, God is always doing something in our midst. He gives us grace so that we can give it to others. Not that we — or they — deserve it. But because He loves us. He wants us to be free from bitterness and unforgiveness. He wants us to know His healing, His peace, and be made ready our new season.
And though it doesn’t seem logical, this often means going through some ugly stuff first.
It’s hard to pretend that we are exuberant when our emotions are in the mud. It hard to be the bigger person, to wish someone well who has stomped on your heart. It’s hard to hold your head high when you want to lose your lunch at just the thought of interacting with people who have maligned you, blamed you, spoken ill of you.
How do we muddle through this? How do we remember that even when we don’t want them to, people are watching how we handle such adverse situations. In cases like this, actions speak louder than our words.
I would like to offer something here that helps. I would like to say that I have figured out a method that pushes you through these tough moments without feeling compromised or disingenuous. The truth is, I only know what works for me.
I was blessed to have a grandmother who had the knack, the grace, the tenacity to do the hard things. I watched her closely. I can still sense her spirit in the way she would say and do things that always made it look easy. She would say simple things that stuck. Things like “Well, that’s just the proper thing to do…” As if there were no other options available. For her, there weren’t.
God is always calling us to be more than we are. He is calling us to be more like Him. And like my grandmother, I have just come to expect that somehow I will muster the grit and dignity to do it. Not perfectly. But properly, none the less.
We can’t count on other folks to say and do the right things. If that were the case, we wouldn’t get hurt. Things wouldn’t be so doggone hard sometimes.
That means that I can only count on Him. I can only do what I can, and He will have to give me the grace and the determination to push through the rest. He will defend me, raise me up again, sooth my wounds, place me on a higher ground. That’s what this kind of grace does.
Believing this, frees me up to wish them well — those who could not find it within themselves to do the same for me.
It’s not always easy, but it’s the way He wants us to be. Next time you are faced with a tough moment, bless those that have hurt you. And if no one else is watching, always remember that God is. He will reward you in your obedience.
It’s just the proper thing to do.
Wish them well.