A month ago, I was talking with an older woman who was making excuses for the decisions someone had made. The excuses, I knew, were really the reasons for her sympathy for her bad choices. I, too, felt sympathy for the choices that had been made and the situation that had resulted. But, my perspective is a little different. I also felt that the woman had choices about how to respond to her own pain.
Years ago, my best friend had a friend who had been abused by her husband for many years. My friend shared with me that her friend had become an abuser towards her children, taking her frustration and stress out on her kids instead of protecting them. After the woman later got a divorce and entered her senior years, she couldn't understand why her children didn't like her or want to be around her. She didn't recognize that she had become an abuser herself.
In life, when we are faced with stressful situations, it can be tempting to lash out at the people we believe will love us unconditionally. But, I think we should strive and try our best not to do this.
My dad once told me when I was young that if someone hurt him that he was going to hurt them back more. I remember hearing him say this and I remember immediately having the thought that if someone hurt me, then they are hurting themselves. If I lashed out at them in return, it would continue a damaging cycle of hurting each other back and forth.
As a result, I have often walked away when people have hurt me instead of lashing back. This has been hard because I've ended up with a lot of wounds that hurt for a long time. I've had to give my pain to the Lord over and over. I struggled for years when I was young wondering if God cared about my pain, but I learned He did. I realize that I come across to people as a strong person, who knows who she is and isn't. This is true. I am strong. God made me this way and I have to be strong. My family needs me to be.
I had one pastor once tell me, "Giving Up is not an Option."
He was right.
Yesterday, I sat on the back porch of my home and something my dad emailed me a month ago came to my mind. My dad is dying. He reached out to me through a family member because he wanted to email me. The purpose of his email?
To tell me that he has been better off without me in his life for 25 years. He is happier than he has ever been and I am his motivation. There were no questions about me or my family. There was no, "How are you?"
You see, my dad disowned me early in my 20s, so we haven't spoken by phone or email in years. But, even so, what a horrible thing to say to their child!
I know I have a choice. I can let this define me and mire me down. Or I can realize that my dad is a very broken man who doesn't know the Lord. I can cling to God, knowing that He made me and He loves me.
Over the years, there have been other things that have been said to me...
"You're unloveable. I tried, but I just can't love you." an ex-boyfriend years and years ago.
"Everyone doesn't like you." just a few years ago by someone I thought was a friend.
"We don't like you and this is why..." back in 7th grade by a group of girls.
Words are daggers. They can be hateful and damaging. Without knowing and understanding that God loved me, I don't know how I would be standing today as healthy as I am.
Each of those words has a story behind it.... An ex-boyfriend who told the same thing to four other girls he dated because the problem was really his own issues...a woman who felt insecure because I thought a group of people should change and welcome people more...and a group of 7th grade girls who systematically turned on each other after they turned on me.
James 3: 5-12 talks about the fires that our tongues can start. It is so true!
5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God's likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
I've written about this same idea before on this blog. But, it's on my heart this morning because the Lord is having to remind me about it again. Each time the words that have hurt me creep in me, I have to remember... "God loves me, my family loves me, and I do have friends."