Sure you have. That old bit about “sticks and stones…” just isn’t true. Really, who hasn’t been wounded by the words of others?
I was once wounded by a friend and have the scars to prove it.
My friend, who is notorious for his playful banter, took a swipe at me personally. It was one of those, “You never really…” statements, which seemed to impugn my motives. What it was in particular isn’t really the point.
Within minutes, he poured salt on the wound as we discussed a major project I had successfully completed. It started out with, “Oh, it was just…” which concluded with words that I felt totally minimized and marginalized my efforts, which didn’t seem to reflect any consideration for how this made me feel.
Because these injuries were inflicted by a friend and in a friendly environment, I didn’t even realize how deeply I’d been hurt until hours later. My awakening came when I was trying to determine why I was so blue.
My initial thoughts were something like: Come on! Get with it! Why am I feeling rotten? Why do I feel like I could sit on a dime and dangle my legs? Why do I feel like I want to run and hide, closing myself off from the world? I’ve got nothing to feel bad about, right? It’s probably just something I ate. Maybe my blood sugar is low. I definitely need to start getting more sleep. Maybe it’s the Benadryl you took a couple of hours ago.
No matter where my thoughts took me, there did not seem to be an answer.
Questions like these just kept hounding me? As I continued to reflect on my day, I eventually saw myself sitting in a meeting in a public place. There, with crowds surrounding us and people I know, people I trust, people I love, sitting at the table those two statements ran through my mind in rapid succession:
— You never really…
— Oh, it was just…
Then I understood exactly what my problem was.
Even though I didn’t realize it at the time, I was wounded by these words. Amazingly, gaining this insight almost immediately ended my discouragement. I began processing this, trying to determine what my response should be.
Frankly, this was prompted because my first response was not correct. I was angry. Not strong anger. Not the kind of anger that prompted me to pick up the phone and give this person a piece of my mind. It was a slow burn. The kind of anger that made me want to plan appropriate retaliation when the opportunity presented itself.
Soon after realizing that two wrongs don’t make a right, I began to process my friend’s assessments of my character and conduct in a different light. Some things that helped me put this into proper perspective are:
1) The realization that there might be something to gain from my critic’s comments. These comments were not true. On both counts, I could have argued my case and won the day. I am sure that my friendly accuser would have backed down. In retrospect, I’m glad I didn’t take such a stand. He did not then know my motivation. Neither did he know the effort I put into the project. But, my motivation for doing this was not for recognition of either my talent or in my effort. Was it pride that caused me to be sensitive to his jabs? I don’t think it was. It sure could have been. This was a good to be reminder that my efforts were for God and God’s glory—not for recognition and praise from men.
2) There was no malice in his comments. In my opinion there was a lack of wisdom, because of the timing. My friend is a loving person, whose whole life has been spent serving and caring for others. I’ve even wished in times past he would be more forthright, that he would speak his mind. I guess it’s possible that he just needed to get in a little practice with me. Besides, wasn’t I also guilty of impugning his motives? Even though I didn’t speak them, I was still doing this. I am just glad I didn’t say anything. Maybe I should apply the Golden Rule to this situation!
3) This may be what I need to make a needed change. Sometimes you’ve gotta’ work with what you’ve got, right? And, why worry about the timing? Pride is what keeps me from wanting another person to point out my shortcomings in a public setting. Insecurity also causes me to be embarrassed when I feel like my efforts are belittled in the presence of others. If these attributes were not in the picture, it wouldn’t matter what others say to me or about me or, even, when they said it. If it’s true, then it is time to change. If not now, then when? If it’s not true, then it’s time to forgive. Either way, a person who humbles himself under the mighty hand of God, one who has truly died to self, does not feel as though he has to save face.
After this day’s events, I have a new appreciation for Proverbs 27:6, where we read the following:
“Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.”
Additionally, I’m trying to think about the impact of my words on those with whom I am speaking, before I let them rattle off of my tongue. Towards this end the Apostle Paul’s counsel in Ephesians 4:29 seems most fitting:
Let everything you say be good and helpful,
so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.
May God help us all to choose our words wisely.
© Bill Williams, a fellow sojourner