One day a few years ago, in my start to a dreary, wet, gray workday, I could hear the conversations around me & since my ADD medication hadn’t kicked in yet, I was highly distracted. Hearing the concerned chatter about a co-worker friend battling cancer as they discussed her getting sick while still trying to work the previous day.
As this conversation is happening behind me, my phone lit up with a text. My friend was sending me an update on my sweet roommate. Remember her? How amazing & awesome she was to me for two years? She was battling Multiple Myeloma for the third time in 10 years. At the time, she was in a specialized medical facility about 4 hours away. We couldn’t pop in. It’s a straight up road trip. Plus, with her treatments, she was susceptible to infections so visits were not necessarily best for her. As you may have read, she was able to go home to Jesus last May.
Do any other “supporters” of a sick loved one feel helpless? The only thing I could do for these women is pray. It is also the best thing I can do. The ultimate act of love. I need action though. I want to DOOOOOOOO something. I find stuff to appease this need. Meals, prayer chains, whatever… Confession: It may appear to be helpful to others but I do it selfishly to make myself feel like I’m actually helping. I can lift them up in prayer while I’m driving or at work or wherever. It’s a part of the day. To feel like I’m accomplishing something, I need to organize something, visit & care for them, do do do – anything at all.
As I processed the update on my lovely Les, the conversations around me turned. I hear the whispers but not the words. I knew these coworkers well enough to know they were not speaking loving, uplifting words about someone. They rarely included me in these talks. I have more than enough work to do so I tend to stay to myself, try to avoid conflict or situations that could create it. I’m far from flawless, but I typically don’t share gossip. At times, people just bring it directly to me. I try to lock it away & not continue it’s spreading. Maybe this is why most people use my desk as a therapist’s office rather than a water cooler.
This twist of conversation brought me to a thought.
Have you ever truly paid attention to the lives of the people around you every day?
Whenever I listen to the gossiping, the backbiting, belittling, condescending words coming from women I have great affection towards, I wonder why they feel the need to be so cruel. I know their capacity for love is unlike most. These women have loved me & others so deeply during difficult moments, I adore them with every cell in my body. I know the psychologists say we do these “mean girl” behaviors to make ourselves feel better about our own smallness in an area. It has quite the opposite effect on me. I feel horrible. I can’t sleep. I never want to do anything that is hurtful to someone else. Again, selfishly, I don’t want to have to clean myself up from it later. I no longer work for this company. I miss the love I felt from these women for so many years but I also know God had used me for His purpose & it was time to move on.
We all have the potential to be kind. We all have cracks or chips in our heart that have leaked some of our ability to freely love. Life is mean, hard & often leaves people with incorrect responses to situations or other people. These experiences change us. We become hardened, mean, build walls, lose compassion. We may not be innately wonderful. Love is a God given ability. We love because God loves us. Without Him, we would be like Lord of the Flies, mere savages.
Have you ever considered writing down the names of all the people you encounter & listing the “problems, struggles, fights” they are currently wrestling? LITERALLY EVERYTHING!! Every single little thing going on in each person’s life. Everyone you know.
Let me warn you. It’s slightly overwhelming.
But it will change the way you view them. It will take you from judgmental to compassionate. It will take you from frustration to tolerance. You will begin to see them with the broken places in their lives & start to understand why they behave as they do. This is not a free pass for them to be nasty, or an expectation on you to take it like a floor mat, but it is an opportunity for you to respond in kindness. Rather than ugly up their life with retorts or comebacks, try to love them. Learning to do this with people can not only change your life, but theirs. When they discover you truly care, they see you will accept them, they feel you love them for who they are, it begins a healing process within them.With enough love & acceptance, unconditional but more importantly, without expectation of return, we can turn the broken, even the almost dead hearts into living, healing, giving hearts.
I’m not sure exactly what it looks like in the world or in you, I just know I can usually see the wounds within people. I just try to be whatever people need at any given moment. Since I can’t cure my loved ones or hug their broken hearts back together, I listen to them for other opportunities, ask them what I can do. But the best place I find out what someone needs is when I listen to my heart. Allowing my heart to lead me allows God to place His work within me. Which means when I am obedient to this lead, it will always be the right thing for the hurt. I try to never question or doubt what this may be. If God has brought me to it, He will certainly bring me through it. (Terrible cliché, I know. My apologies) I wouldn’t want to go rogue, doing the wrong thing for someone. Plus, life is about experience. If I’m not comfortable doing what I’m being led to do, but I do it anyways, it will only bring me further personal growth. But enough of me trying to convince you to do the right thing. Listen to what is not being said underneath the words of negativity & gossip. Listen to the hearts of the broken & hurting. Try to be the person that hugs their heart back together. I know you can’t. Neither can I. But don’t we all need to know someone is willing to try?
So your challenge is to get a notebook, write down the people you encounter regularly. Write down every struggle you know they fight. Begin to listen for opportunities to love on them. I know you are busy. But this will return itself in so many priceless ways, you will wish you had begun to do this sooner. It will work on both them and you.
And pray for them. It is the best thing you can do.