Today I am recovering from a comment that was so rude, so blisteringly sarcastic that it left me reeling. It was in fact so clever, that initially I thought the person had misunderstood what I'd just said. But after that, when the meaning hit me, it literally took my breath away. Worst of all, the comment was made in a semi-public way, in an email, with others copied in .
Now I don't tell you this because I want comfort, or to make you feel sorry for me. I am fully aware that I can be oversensitive and that this side of my personality, while occasionally annoying, enables me to pick up nuances of feeling and atmosphere that others don't always see. In short, as a pastor's wife and general human being, it's quite useful. But I think most people would have found this particular comment rude. Words, which can bring such blessing, were used in another way to that which God intended. A kind of verbal knife crime.
We talk a lot as Christian writers about using words for good - bringing encouragement, pleasure, even revelation - or so we pray - to those who read our written offerings. But how should we respond when words are used against us unkindly? Now, although I did lumber around for some time after this, mainly in the garden and the shower, composing a disdainful riposte, I never really had any intention of writing it. I only have a working relationship with this person which will end very soon, and frankly, such a reply would be counter-productive. Also, I find the words of Jesus in Luke 6 very interesting and want to put them into practice.
"To you who are ready for the truth, I say this: Love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer for that person. If someone slaps you in the face, stand there and take it. If someone grabs your shirt, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously." The Message
"To you who are ready for the truth.." What is the truth? I suppose that meeting evil with evil (blistering comment with blistering reply) does nothing to change the pain at the heart of things. It continues the cycle of anger and hurt which pulls at those layers of hard skin we've left for years, crusting over past wounds. Somehow, though one of the hardest things to do, meeting harsh words in the opposite spirit seems to help the soul erase them. It dilutes the pain and softens the skin.
So I wrote a polite reply, using the writing gift I believe God has given me. Then I went out into the sunshine and prayed His words and mine would do their magic. I wandered around in the town and bought chocolate and tea and a slender flute of irises. Then I came home and sat in the garden and let the ripening light complete the softening.
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Deborah Jenkins is a freelance writer and supply teacher, who has written articles, text books, devotional notes and short stories. She also writes regularly for the TES. She has completed a novella, The Evenness of Things, available as an Amazon e-book and is currently working on a full length novel. Deborah loves hats, trees and small children. After years overseas with her family, who are now grown up, she lives in East Sussex with her husband, a Baptist minister, and a cat called Oliver.