Many are hurting today.
I don’t mean a simple headache; I’m referring to the kind of agony which cuts so deep, one honestly don’t know whether or not they will survive.
One unfortunate result of tragedy and turmoil is the emotional fallout. Venom is spewed from the pits of someone’s own personal lake of torment, and we get dumped on. Then we turn around and judge this person solely on a single action, such as flipping us off in traffic, or not replying as happily as we felt they should’ve in the drive-thru.
But we can’t see the torment their weary eyes have veiled. We are fully unaware of the agony they have endured. They might’ve felt they were going mad last night, yet, having been awakened by the coming dawn, decided to give life just one more shot.
We act as if we’re entitled to cordial treatment by everyone who crosses our path.
For example: the man on the corner just lost his wife and child. She left because she couldn’t take his drinking anymore and swore her son wouldn’t grow up in the same type of environment in which she was raised. Figuring he might as well have one last hurrah on this planet, he walked to the local convenience store to spend his last $20 on booze. He plans on mixing them with his mom’s pain pills tonight, and then drifting off to sleep, never again to awaken.
“That weird apartment guy who is always drunk cut RIGHT in front of me at the store, and then he didn’t even hold the door open! He knew I was right behind him. Jerk.”
The checker at Wal-Mart just lost her mom. At 22 years old, she expected to have her mother another 40 years, but cancer took the poor woman in just a matter of months. She has to work today because she is only allowed one week of bereavement, and wants to spend it with her sister and family when they get in from Ohio on Friday. The sister left home angry three years ago and is now eaten up with guilt over never having made it right with her mom.
“That lady didn’t even smile at me, and when I paid, there was no ‘thanks,’ no nothing. She was freaking RUDE.”
The old man who shuffled by me on the sidewalk has no family left. His wife passed away three years ago, yet he can still feel her next to him. He can still hear her voice, carried in on the wind, haunting him when he’s alone. His son moved away to take advantage of a great job offer, and now he rarely makes contact.
“Yeah, I said ‘good morning’ to that weird, old guy from down the street, but he never even looked up. Must be one’a those people who hate everybody because he’s afraid they’re gonna walk across his lawn or something. Idiot.”
The young man who was yelling at me across the street, trying to entice me into a fight, has nothing to his name. One pair of jeans, two raggedy shirts, three boxes of mac’n’cheese in the cabinet, and four other people living in the same apartment, so strung out on meth, they don’t even know what year it is. His dad is in prison and his mom let her boyfriend move in last month. The boyfriend doesn’t like the kid, so he knocks him around every chance he gets.
“That dude was all big and bad, trying to start a fight with me. He actually cussed at me when I told him I didn’t have a dollar. YEESH, whatever, man. I just laughed and called the cops. I hope they haul his butt away. I ain’t gonna let no wanna-be GANGSTA make me look stupid. Punk.”
You get the picture.
One morning in our weekly staff/prayer meeting, my supervisor gave a devotional, quoting author Will Bowen: “Hurt people hurt people.”
That stuck with me, man. I couldn’t get it out of my head. People who are hurting will hurt others by default, whether or not they mean to.
I thought of all the times I had popped off at my beloved wife, angry at nothing, yet fuming and unable to extinguish the flames. Was it thoughts of being bullied as a teenager? Or maybe of being molested by a neighborhood boy in kindergarten? Or maybe it was the blinding, debilitating pain of chronic sufferers like me.
Or perhaps it was a little of all of it.
Look, all I’m saying is this: “A kind answer soothes angry feelings, but harsh words stir them up (Proverbs 15:1).”
I’ve found this to be true time and time again.
My gut reaction to animosity is outrage, but I’m trying to evolve as I get older.
Before we return rage for rage, we must stop for a few seconds and consider the other person may be going through some type of hell we can’t fathom. It’s vital we take a few seconds to cool out, and then whisper a prayer for them. They may be engrossed in a bloody crusade with forces we can’t even comprehend.
That’s all I’m saying.