𝐋𝐨𝐯𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐓𝐨𝐫𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐨𝐫𝐬

She pulled up the chair next to me and started unloading her inside sourness. She told me how you-know-who had come into the office today and was doing her same ol' routine. Rolling my eyes, I nodded in agreement, then told her my story of how the other you-know-who had once again broken our social guidelines. Ugh… the nerve of some people. I had camaraderie with her while we were sitting there but, as we walked away, I wondered to whom she griped about me, then I wondered if she felt the same distrust towards me.

He called me up to tell me how she had infuriated him AGAIN. I knowingly acquiesced, “When will she learn?! Will she ever change?” I was his sounding board. He felt better by getting it off his chest. As we hung up, I wondered who he called when I was the cause of his aggravation.

I sat down across from him and said, “I know this sounds awful but may I please just vent?” He allowed me to, then he assured me that we all get frustrated and my aggravation towards that man was a perfectly human response. Then he reminded me that we’re called to a life that rises above mere human response and helped me see ways to reach for that while maintaining my healthy boundaries. I walked away thinking, “Wow… I want to be such a peace-promoting person.”

I sat in my pew a few minutes after the service ended, packing my belongings, when I overheard them behind me, “Did you see what she was wearing today?” “Well, did you hear how her husband talked to her?” I sat there fuming, judging them back, and thinking they must have come to church for the social benefits because they definitely weren’t there trying to be more like our God. Oh yea – I bested them in the judging department.

I saw the look in her eyes as I explained my failure. I implored her with my eyes and my tone to cut me some slack, and she shrugged and nodded but I saw the hard judgment in her eyes. As I walked past the second time, I even heard what she whispered to her boyfriend about me. It hurt. I knew they were right but I wished they had told me directly instead of gossiping about me. No, I would rather they had cut me the slack behind my back that they feigned to my face. I wished they had cut me some slack and meant it. I wished they could see my situation from my perspective.

You may think I’m slapping your hand but I’m not. When I say that you, the reader, are my audience, I’m talking to the reader who has been betrayed by his and her friends. You see, I think we’re all the judging hypocrites who are too loose with our tongues but I think we all know that we should aim higher than that. I don’t think you need to be told. I think we also are all the victims of poorly-disguised slander and we know it hurts. We pretend to be tough and we find a way to move on and smile at our tormentors but we hurt, don’t we? I’m talking to you who hurt today.

Those people, the ones who are judging you? They don’t understand. They think they do but who really can? Especially with all you keep bottled inside. Even if they did know, maybe they would still criticize you. After all, it protects them from seeing their own mishaps. You know they’re not perfect either, don’t you?

My friend at the office who was helping me bash on the others? She’s got a secret to hide. You who were the subject of our conversation should remember that. We’re not always so well-behaved either, despite our correcting your manners.

That guy who called me to groan about the repeat offender? He’s hurting and the only way to protect himself from her hurt is to attack her. You who are the one he complained about should know that he speaks from a place of vulnerability and, the truth is, he is trying to judge you because he loves you too much to acknowledge that your criticism of him might be real.

Remember when I sat across from my friend and vented? I was complaining about a behavior that I know darn well I’m guilty of myself. You who were the target of my sharp tongue should know that what I’m really despising is that part of myself, not that part of you.

The couple behind me at church who were so much more superior than their fellow congregants? Did you know that he’s thinking about leaving her? But he doesn’t know that she’s been texting her high-school flame. Ouch. Guess they’ve got no room to talk.

That girl who kicked me while I was down? She feels unappreciated and is so full of self-pity that when she looks at everyone else, she just sees the glory they receive at half the effort she makes. It’s not true but she hurts too much inside to see the truth. And I, the one who she hurt, should realize that it’s not me. She treats everyone that way because she is blind to her own pain.

You’ve heard the quote, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” How often do we remember that when we’re in the midst of being a victim? Or witnessing cruelty, or even plain cattiness? It’s hard, huh? It’s hard to be nice to the person being mean, even sometimes when we’re not their victim. And, on the other hand, sometimes it’s hard not to play into the being mean. I think, though, as the hurting victim, we are called to do just that, to be nice to the ones who are hurting us. I think, too, that as the offended bystander, we are also called to do that, to be nice to the ones who are hurting our friends.

The Bible tells us over and over. Forgive seventy times seven. (Matthew 18:22) Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. (John 8:7) Love thy neighbor as thyself. (Mark 12:31) But let’s look at actions over words. In Jesus’s life, we saw Him criticize and judge. (Matthew 21:12) (That seems legitimate – He’s God!) We don’t see Him gossip. He doesn’t encourage His disciples to form a clique and look down their noses at “those” people. He teaches an embracing love (Mark 2:13-17, Mark 12:41-44, Matthew 15:21-28), an acceptance that the Pharisees and disciples alike struggled with 2000 years ago and that we struggle with today.

You the victim are hurt, you criticize yourself enough, and you really don’t need it from them. I know; oh do I know how you feel.

You the bystander are tired, it takes so much energy to listen to people be negative, and you’ve got so little energy left to give. Yes, that; I get that, too; I do.

Love the tormentors. Love them where they are. Pray for them. And pray for God’s peace and restoring strength for yourself. Think of the peaceful ones in your life and get a refreshing sip of that friendship as often as you need it. But keep loving the ones who are spitting mean-ness. You know that comes from a place of hurt and a place that is low on love. Fill it up. You have an unlimited supply to replace your own bounty. And remember that sometimes YOU are those people. Even you, the victim, sometimes become the tormentor and, no, you don’t have the right either. But love yourself, too. And keep refilling from the only perfect one. He loves us all, even through our ugliness.

“You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” – Leviticus 19:18, ESV

“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” – 2 Timothy 1:7, ESV

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” – Matthew 5:43-48, ESV

“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” – Deuteronomy 31:6, ESV
𝐋𝐨𝐯𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐓𝐨𝐫𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐨𝐫𝐬
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