Have you ever received a surprise slap during a conversation? That experience when you feel a judgment, accusation, or confrontation comes out of nowhere?
Sometimes, you know it’s coming. It’s been brewing for awhile, waiting for just the right time and situation to spew forth. You can brace yourself for it. But when it catches you by surprise, it’s difficult to receive. Instead of responding, you might react…by lashing out, justifying yourself, or shutting down.
How can you prepare ahead of time for something you don’t know is coming? How can you remain sensitive to the possibilities of the relationships around you without taking everything personally? How can you take on a new perspective, one that takes you into consideration (after all, you’ll have quite a time completely ignoring your own perspective) but also widens the scope?
Sometimes, when people attack, accuse, or judge you, it’s not as much about you as you might think. Sometimes, they’re struggling through their own stuff, and you’re available at the time. Something you do or say reminds them of what most irritates them about someone else, or themselves. Perhaps you’re a safe sounding board, and even though you wish they’d take a less aggressive approach, they need to process out loud without a lot of interference. They might be questioning some things on their own, but they’re not quite ready to get personal with their questions. In fact, for the time being, they might have built up walls of protection to resist any personal reflection, because it’s just too daunting to face. It’s easier to examine and interrogate someone else’s life than their own.
You might never know the exact reason for the slap, and in the moment, it might not help a lot anyway, unless you’re willing to quietly use it as a motivation to stay engaged and be compassionate. Confronting the reason when emotions are already high will likely make the situation worse. Besides, your assessment of the situation might be wrong.
The bottom line is, someone is taking jabs at you, and you want to jab right bag and accuse, attack, and judge. So…do you? Should you?
Take a deep breath. Ask yourself, “Is there some truth in what she’s saying to me?” Pause before you get defensive. Maybe God wants you to learn something about yourself that you would prefer not to face, especially from “that person.”
Ask yourself, “How can I honor God in my response?” If you’re able to calmly assess that it really isn’t about you, why take offense to it? Why not help the person process? Give her respect. Ask her questions to help her clarify what she’s thinking. Let her express herself, while responding in a kind way (kind, not as in becoming a doormat for people to walk on, but as in honestly engaging in caring conversation).
Sometimes, people seem to wrestle with themselves and others when they’re actually wrestling with God. What seems personal is…but it’s more about a personal relationship with God than something between you and the other person. Of course, God uses relationships to grow us, so pay attention. Do it His way, and you’ll grow toward Him and honor Him. How you respond is about your relationship with Him. Let Him determine what you need to take as personal. He’s not surprised by the slap. He saw it coming…and He also saw how you’d handle it and use it to trust Him.
Pay attention to God along the way. Then, when you’re faced with a surprise, you’ll be as prepared as He intends you to be. You have what you need…or rather, WHO you need. Trust Him through the situation. Honor Him with your response.