I was in the middle of a Zoom meeting when all of a sudden I could feel the anger rising. We were having an informal brainstorming session and sharing ideas as a group, but after I shared my idea, another person immediately shot it down. Not only that, but they said some words about my mental and emotional state as the reason for rejecting my suggestion. Their words were hurtful and piercing, and I immediately assumed the worst about this person. What a jerk, I thought. They’re probably attempting some power play here too. Ignorant. Stubborn. Mean. There were a lot of adjectives swirling in my mind about this person at the moment, and they were not all godly.
By God’s grace, though, I held my tongue. My mind was racing and, though the conversation was moving on, I tried to stop and pray, Holy Spirit, I am angry. What do I do?
It was nothing but providence that allowed Philippians 2:3-4 to come to mind: “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 others.” As these words repeated themselves in my head, I began to think, What if this person is just saying what they think is best? What they said wasn’t that great, but they’re probably saying what they think is right.
Slowly my perspective began to change. I wasn’t taking the situation as personally anymore. I was trying hard to not make this person’s words all about myself and how they were trying to hurt me. Instead, I wanted to value them and consider their interests above my own: What do I know of this person? What do they think is important? Why did they respond the way they did, and what underlying factors are at work?
Because each of us have experienced hurt and trauma, it can be all too easy to overlay our past experiences onto present realities. We can often ascribe motive to folks and assume we know why they did what they did. But that is not a posture of grace. People can often come across as harsh when they drop a sentence without explanation. But before getting mad, we can say to ourselves, “This person is probably saying what they think is best,” and then give them the opportunity to explain themselves. Instead of assuming what a person’s motives are, we can keep an open heart and mind and ask God to help us understand that person better. Instead of immediately labeling someone as cruel or a jerk and dismissing them, we can humbly challenge ourselves to care for that person and seek what’s best for them.
In other words, when someone is a jerk to us, we can respond with a posture of grace. People don’t know what they don’t know. We can’t control their words and actions, but we can challenge ourselves to gather all the information, have the conversations, and better understand what is motivating the other person.
Undoubtedly, there is a difference between giving someone the benefit of the doubt and showing grace. I give the benefit of the doubt to my most intimate relations — my spouse, my family, and closest friends. With them I say, “These people love me, and I’m probably misunderstanding them.” When we don’t know someone well and don’t know understand why they said what they did, we can show grace by being willing to find out more.
I still thought what that person said in the Zoom meeting was insensitive, and I felt I needed to address those comments. However, I wasn’t angry anymore. My heart wasn’t pounding and about to jump out of my chest. Instead, I felt calm. I looked at this person on my screen with a sincere desire to connect with them, encourage them, and help them understand where I was coming from.
So, I cleared my throat and said, “Excuse me. Sorry to interrupt. I’d like to say a few words.”
What followed were some brief simple sentences. “I want to go back to something you just said. It didn’t sit right with me and here’s why.” I explained my point of view briefly, calmly, and then said, “I’d like to better understand your reasoning. Can you share more of your thoughts?” The person I engaged with didn’t feel attacked (thank the Lord). In fact, they welcomed the opportunity to clarify their earlier words and even apologized for coming off so strong the first time.
Let’s ask God to help us not assume the worst of people. We can keep showing grace, even when others don’t show grace to us. Let’s value people, show them understanding, and maybe, just maybe, we’ll be able to connect with others in a way we didn’t think was possible.Leave a Comment
Ruth Mills says
So like Jesus, seeing beyond the hurt & pain ( our sin) & acting to give us worth in His righteousness, forgiveness I/we don’t deserve/can’t earn but He did it anyway. Amazing love! Thank you for sharing your example of passing His grace to others! Simply beautiful!
Lori J says
Loved this. Just think if everyone applied what you suggest, it would be a more loving and compatible world. Seeing more angles on every issue, picking the best ideas. Our Feelings (and arrogance) definitely get in the way of life. I agree, open communication and confronting our OWN feelings is the answer on the largest of scales. Love and treat people how we want to be treated. God makes it so clear… and then we complicate it.
tara royer steele says
this was such a good word. thank you for sharing
Food for thought. Thank you!
Becky Keife says
Michelle, this is so real and applicable to all our lives! I want to take on that same posture of grace. Letting curiosity and a genuine care for others is such a better starting point for engaging with others than in our hurt and anger. Thanks for this, friend.
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Thank you for sharing your heart. It reminds me of something that happened too me. With a Friend. Only for another Friend. I would have said something back too her. As the Friend that said the words to me. Hurt me greatly. I was not going to go to something she had asked me too because her words hurt me badly. Then my other Friend that was invited too. Said don’t let her words hurt you. As if you do they will eat at you. You got to forgive her. Come with me to what she has invited us to show you have forgiven her. Don’t let it annoy you. I showed my Friend the text message from the Friend that had hurt with her words. All I was doing was explained why I couldn’t eat a big meal. At the things she ask me too. I was nice about it. My other friend when I showed her the text told her that I had only just was nice about it. Explain why I couldn’t have big meal during the day. My friend said yes she shouldn’t have said the Friend that said what she said that hurt me. As I am very sensitive person. Words do hurt. I told my other Friend only you want me go to the thing we both been invited too. I would not be going I was so hurt by her words. She this person is saved that said what was not nice there was no need for it. Plus so is my other Friend that I went with. But I did think what my Friend that still wanted me go with her said before the day of the invite. I had to forgive her. I knew there was no other way as this person that hurt me with her words. When I was only explaining why I can’t eat a big meal during the day. So I knew because of the type of person the person that hurt me with her words. I couldn’t tell her I have forgiven you. As she not listen to me. Think she done nothing wrong or said nothing wrong. But when my other Friend that read on the text what this other friend said. She agreed there was no need for her to be so hurtful with her words. Especially when you were only in a nice way explaining yourself. So I went to the Lord ask him to forgive me for what the Friend that hurt me with her words when she should not have. I went to the invites with my other Friend. I did at the start of the day at the invite. Did still feel a bit hurt. When I looked at the Friend that said the words she shouldn’t have. But as the day went on I go with the help of the Lord to put it behind me. Enjoyed the rest of that day. That the Friend who invited me too it that said words she shouldn’t have says. I left her God hands. I knew in my heart God was pleased with me. Now it doesn’t annoy me at all. But words do hurt at times. So we have to be very careful what we say. I know to this day she doesn’t think she done anything wrong. I not tell her as in the past. So I not get a sorry from her for her words. But I did when God would want me to do and forgive her. Even though I didn’t tell her. That her words had hurt me. I nearly was not going to the things she invited me too. Michelle thank you so much for sharing your heart. If we wanted we could have got Angry at you what happened in your Zoom Chat. Me with my Friend and her words. Then we end saying things that we later regret. To the people that hurt us with their words. They probably think get a life don’t let my words hurt you. God wouldn’t want us to that. So we I believe did the right thing. God is pleased with us for doing the right thing. I know with me and that Friend that hurt me with her words and you and the person on Zoom. When we look back at it now. We are very glad we didn’t have words with them. As we could have hurt them with ours. We both did the right thing.
Keep you all incourage in my prayers. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little Enniskillen Co.Fermanagh N. Ireland. Xx
Christine Hazel says
This was so helpful
Patricia Jaracz says
What solid teaching! I love that an example was included.
Mary Gemmill says
I am really thankful to God for this post as it spoke directly to a situation.in my life where I was needing God’s direction.
Jennifer Haynie says
What a wonderful post! I think we all could benefit from it, and it definitely resonated with me. Reminds me of the good old Ladder of Inference that’s so easy to run up, just like you stated. Thank you for helping all of us to remember to breathe and to assume the best of people.
Gail Noe says
Thank you for sharing this. It gives me great insight into the heart of God. I realize the times I needed this type of wisdom. It helps me move forward in a more understanding direction.
Theresa Boedeker says
So often if we can distance ourself from the comment (yes, this is hard to do and I am still learning to
do this), but so often the comment is more about them than us.
Beth Williams says
It is so easy to feel the need to retaliate harsh comments. The trick is to ask God to help us see the best in everyone. They may not realize they hurt our feelings or did something wrong. I put that very concept to practice this week with hubby. God helped me keep my mouth shut & instead email him some words of affirmation.
Thank you. I really needed this today.
Awesome advice. I love how you handled the situation when you went back. It’s a great example for us to model. It reminds me Proverbs 16:7, when a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.