Every day we pass by those in such physical and/or emotional pain, they truly think they can’t survive another day. Perhaps you just drove past a young man, face full of piercings, who cut you off and then cursed at you.
“Little punk,” we mutter.
But what if that “little punk” just lost his father, and is drowning in a world of confusion? What if his girlfriend broke up with him two days ago, and he’s finally decided life isn’t worth living anymore? Would this make you feel differently about his actions?
It’s possible the condescending lady behind the counter at McDonald’s just found out she and her son are facing eviction from their shabby, one-bedroom apartment if she doesn’t come up with last month’s rent. Maybe she has no family or close friends in the area, and is feeling utterly lost, having not one clue what she’s going to do. Her son looks to her for answers, but she has none.
Of course, it’s entirely possible the little punk and the snooty lady just have major attitude, but how can we tell the difference? Answer: we CAN’T, so I say give them the benefit of the doubt.
My work supervisor—who used to be a pastor, and still has a pastor’s heart—reminds us in staff meetings every now and again that “hurting people hurt people.” Sometimes they don’t mean to, but ill temperament is a natural byproduct of suffering for many.
For example, when one passes by me in public, I may or may not reek of glee, due to all the physical and emotional issues I struggle with. Not that I’m rude; it just doesn’t occur to me to greet others with a mammoth chortle at times. Some judge me immediately by what they can see.
Here’s what they can’t see:
I have sleep apnea and haven’t had a good night’s sleep in years. I have four different spinal conditions which cause me constant, debilitating and infuriating pain in my back hips and legs. Additionally, I’ve struggled with depression and anger since I was a teenager, most of it due to my prison of pain.
I’m in a fog most days, limping toward quitting time and home, garnering every scrap of energy just to get back to the easy chair in my living room and relax for a couple hours, before settling in for another restless night.
That’s just me, and there are millions of poor souls who have way more problems than I do. So try and remember, when that little punk cuts you off in traffic, he might be shrouded in torment, without a clue of how to get out. He’s not angry at you personally.
You just happened to be there.
“Share each other’s troubles and problems, and so obey our Lord’s command. If anyone thinks he is too great to stoop to this, he is fooling himself. He is really a nobody (Galatians 6:2-3).”