Sooner or later, someone is going to hurt us. Someone is going to disappoint us terribly. Someone is going to offend us with their attitudes and accusations. One of these days, we are going to be walking along, minding our own business, and someone, perhaps someone we don’t even know, is going to say or do something that causes our blood to boil and our lips to quiver with the need to strike back. In that moment, we have a decision to make.
School of Character
Decision day came for me last week. I had already had the day from hell, everything from computer crash to midday dining table ridiculousness from two children that have been home for the last five weeks during the Corona Crisis. Nothing was going right that day, and before I exploded right before my kids' eyes (ooh, that would've been messy!), I decided to go out and decapitate every blade of grass in our backyard, a job that I usually LOVE. I had some Aerosmith in my ears (my 'decapitate the grass music'), had just finished mowing and trimming (with my new, super amazing trimmer, I might add), and was sweeping up the sidewalk when, out of nowhere, the living, breathing test of my character otherwise known as my next door neighbor appeared! We exchanged neutral greetings about the never-ending duty of yardwork, but then she just couldn't help herself from making a sharp-tongued remark about the colorful chalk messages that my daughter had made on the sidewalks on Easter Sunday. Obviously, 'Jesus loves you' und 'Hosianna, our King is alive!' were more than she could handle. In that moment, I decided to 'be a duck.' I simply stated that my daughter had taken joy in writing the chalk messages, slipped my headphones back over my ears, and walked away.
Change of scenery
A shimmering pond with ducks swimming peacefully on the surface. The duck dips its head into the water and shoots his little duck butt into the air. He flips back up, splashes and rinses his feathers, and repeats. Upon finishing his bath, he calmly paddles toward the shore, steps out, and gives his wings a good flap before waddling off to take a nap. He does not shiver from the cold of that pond, because HE ISN’T WET. A duck produces an oil that he spreads on his feathers with his beak so that he can submerge himself into the water, take his much needed bath to remove the dirt and debris of the day, and then return to his nest to soak up the sunshine without getting a chill. Cool fact, right?
The Power of Decision
And now, back to us. Every day, we enter the ice-cold “pond” of our work environments or the chilly lake of public interaction. We work alongside colleagues, raise children with spouses, and have conversations with our parents, each interaction bringing with it the risk of being hurt, disappointed, or angered. We can’t control what is going to come out of the other person’s mouth, but we can ALWAYS control the response that we have to those words! We can allow the accusations or passive aggressive remarks to pierce our hearts and wound our sensitive souls, or we can CHOOSE to cover our hearts with the “oil” of discernment and reflection. In these situations, it can be helpful to remind yourself of the following:
- Just because someone says something doesn’t make it true!
- Just because someone says something offensive doesn’t mean I have to internalize it!
- Just because the words hurt doesn’t mean that the person wants to hurt us!
- Just because it’s true doesn’t mean it has the power to destroy me!
Just like that lovely little duck on the pond, we can apply discernment to the words that want to seep into our hearts and make everything cold and uncomfortable. We can choose to “shake our feathers” and allow hurtful words to roll right off, knowing that we ALWAYS have control over how we react to any given situation. Perhaps the message was nothing more than a groundless accusation, and deserves nothing more than a waggle of our tail feathers to shake them off! We can choose how deep we allow them to penetrate our exterior!
The Cold Splash of Truth
Should, however, those painful words carry with them the truth that someone was bold enough to speak, we can take a moment to reflect and ask ourselves how we want to change our own patterns of thought or behavior. Perhaps those words, like the cold water on the duck’s back, are there to wash away the dirt and debris that has collected in our hearts and minds, and perhaps the person that spoke them was genuinely trying to help us “get clean.” Here, it is vitally important to assess WHO is allowed to speak into our lives! Not everyone should be granted full access to our hearts and minds, but for the chosen few that have earned our trust, we would do well to weigh the things that they share with us carefully and let them change and stretch us.
As springtime progresses, I hope that you will take a moment to “be a duck,” to swim in your pond and be refreshed by the water, but not to be weighed down by allowing hurtful or accusatory messages to “get you wet.” Take courage and send me a “quack” of encouragement if this helped you in some small way!