This week I am waking up in West Michigan. It’s full fledged fall here – crisp air, colorful trees, the smell of damp leaves. Autumn is so lovely – summer going out in a blaze of glory! It’s been a while since I simply walked and enjoyed the beautiful scenery all around me.
The past few days I’ve been thinking a lot about a conversation I had with one of my very best friends a couple of weeks ago. It’s an interesting friendship – on the surface it seems like we don’t really have much in common, but there’s a connection between us that surpasses all of our differences.
The conversation was about relationships. The core of the story being told was how we often jump to conclusions about other people and their motives when they are saying or doing something that we don’t like. Hearing that was like getting hit upside the head with a two-by-four. I do this all the time. What’s crushing is that I even do it with people that I love, that I trust, with whom I have long standing, committed relationships.
Why? Why do I automatically assume that they are a terrible person, that they are out to get me, that they don’t love or care about me? Why is my go to reaction one of lashing out against them, wanting to hurt them, wanting them to know just how much I’ve been wronged? Why don’t I give them the benefit of doubt? Why don’t I believe that they would never consciously do anything to hurt me? Why do I let seeds of distrust fester and erode the structure of the relationship, sometimes to the point of no return? Would my marriages have been different had I believed in my head what I knew in my heart, that this person loved me to the best of their ability?
These realizations have changed me, made me think differently about how I interact with others, especially those closest to me, because those are the most important relationships I have. It has also spilled over into my work life, though. A co-worker was venting to me this week, saying that there’s a person who never answers his emails, that they obviously don’t care about doing their job well, and that he’s not inclined to be prompt the next time they need something.
Normally I would commiserate – after all, that’s what we do, right? Throw a little more fodder on the fire until it grows and gets completely out of control? This time I said, “I believe that ninety-nine percent of people want to do a good job and don’t want to let anyone down and I think this person is one of that ninety-nine percent. I know that at this moment I have about three hundred emails in my inbox that I haven’t had a chance to answer so I know that I’m letting people down. Not because I don’t care and because I don’t want to do a good job, but because there’s only so much I can do every day.”
Living in a broken world makes it difficult to see what’s true, to focus on what’s good, right, pure and lovely. It’s so much easier to focus on everything that’s wrong, to blame others, to think the worst of them and blame them for how I feel while at the same time wanting them to believe in my goodness and righteousness. This has been a hard lesson, but one I’m grateful to have learned. I’m so thankful that I have wise friends who aren’t afraid to share their stories and inspire me to be a better person.