I’ve spent a lot of time thinking, obsessing, and complaining about all the Christians who’ve rejected me over the years. I didn’t make those people up, and I don’t think I’m exaggerating the seriousness of how this alienation has affected me. But at the same time, I can’t lose sight of all the good that has been done for me.
I try very hard to be self-aware.
And I’m aware that I’ve been graced with MANY blessings in addition to the hurt.
There’s a famous quote that floats around Ye Olde Worlde Wide Webbe, often misattributed to Maya Angelou:
They may forget what you said — but they will never forget how you made them feel.
Variations abound, “They may forget what you did,” etc. but the truth of it rings especially true for me. I always, always remember how people make me feel.
That said, I can hear the fingers of the Good Little Christians start to wag. Time for a good old-fashioned lecture! I can feel the tsk tsks brewing in their throats, and the “Well AKSHULLY” speeches beginning. “No one can MAKE you feel anything without your permission!” they will quip with glee.
Insert eyeroll here.
I swear, sometimes I think nothing makes a born-again Christian happier than the opportunity to admonish a backslidden “weaker brethren.” They’re worse than nerds ganging up on a Star Trek noob who doesn’t know that Kirk never said “Beam me up, Scotty.”
No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.
The oft-repeated aphorism, attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, is a favorite of people who love to chide others about owning their feelings. Personally, I think it’s a cop-out and a way to relieve yourself of responsibility. The way we treat others DOES affect them, and refusing to acknowledge that makes you a bully, at best.
Tons of people have made me feel like crap. Some were definitely doing it on purpose; some were just thoughtless and didn’t care. And some apparently thought with all sincerity that they were “helping” with their “tough love” or what have you.
There have been many, many brothers and sisters in Christ who have lifted me up and helped me in my walk with the Lord. Some of them have still managed to hurt me as well, but I do remember the good ones and the good they’ve done. Here are some examples:
- The person who wrote me a nine-hundred-dollar check to cover my rent for a month when I couldn’t find a job.
- The various ladies who’ve invited me into their homes for meals and fellowship over the years.
- The Team of Godly Men who banded together to pry my car door open after church when I locked my keys inside.
- The young couple who allowed me to live in their home for a whole month when I was struggling with depression.
- The dear, sweet, beloved old brother at my original church who saw how much I’d been hurt by others that one time, and instead of launching into a self-righteous scolding, he ever-so-gently put his elderly hand on my shoulder and reminded me: “People will let you down. But God never will.”
- The one lady who used to treat me to lunch at McDonald’s or Panera once a week to give me one-on-one encouragement from the Bible.
- The local organization that filled my gas tank when I was homeless, allowing me to drive to the only available shelter (seventy miles away).
- The one who quietly put a 50-dollar bill in my hand while I was unemployed and panicking that I would be evicted.
- The person who always greets me enthusiastically, with no guilt trip, whenever I make a pop-in at my original church for a visit.
- The tiny handful of people from my Sunday School class who showed up to my housewarming party that I threw for myself.
- Countless others whose kindness has lifted me up in small, quiet ways for over a decade.
Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. (KJV)
Galatians 6:2 is just one of many, many verses in the Bible that remind us to lift each other up. The word “edify” also appears very frequently in the epistles. While it’s an old-fashioned word, it’s perfectly descriptive of how we as Christians should treat each other. Translated from the Greek “oikodomē,” it means “build up,” based on words for a building or structure. Building each other up instead of tearing each other down. Strengthening our structure. Shoring up each other’s foundations.
Instead of striving to be Good Little Christians, let’s all, each of us, be one of the “good ones.” Let’s remember how our actions affect those around us.