Thursday, June 03, 2010

What is your enemy's perspective?

This weekend has given me an interesting perspective on my enemy's perspective and how sometimes, learning a little more about your enemy helps you understand the person behind the enemy label and finding ways to find common ground.

For those who don't know this about my life, my kids play soccer. Hubby has played since childhood, at all levels, including the professional level. I'm not a huge soccer fan, mostly because the parents drive me nuts. Last weekend, we played against a team whose parents drove me to the limits of patience, and frankly, good Christian behavior.

The team was pretty good, and they gave our team a tough game. The girls played hard. It was a physical game, and things got rough at times. There were questionable calls on both sides. Each team got goals that the other team questioned as being valid.

I'll admit, I was upset at some of the reffing. But what upset me more was listening to the parents on the other team. They yelled at the ref, yelled at their players, yelled at our team, and were so disrespectful, I had a hard time not getting into it with them. They yelled at the ref if our girls pushed, but had no problem if two of their girls body slammed my daughter at the same time to get the ball from her. They liked the rules, but only if the rules went their way. I watched as they got in the ref's face to yell at the girl for her bad calls against their team. I watched as one parent got on the field during a substitution to yell at his daughter for continually being offsides. Lots of completely inappropriate behavior, and it made me sick. I knew it would do me no good to say anything to them, other than maybe make them angrier. So I prayed for them, and I prayed for their kids.

The crazy thing about this game- their team won. In fact, our team was never ahead in the game. So why did they need to behave so ridiculously? By the end of the game, I was half afraid there'd be blood.

Imagine my surprise when, for this weekend's big tournament, we needed extra players and the head coach of our team called their team. I asked hubby if coach was crazy. Those guys hated us. Why would they play with us? Well, some of the girls accepted our invitation. Including the daughters of their coaches.

At today's games, I ended up sitting by them. And I learned about their perspective. The first thing I learned is that these parents don't know anything about soccer other than the very basic rules. I spent a good part of the game explaining the nuances of the game. No wonder they'd been yelling at the ref in the previous game- they didn't know the rules, so they didn't realize that the ref was merely following the rules! Not that yelling at the ref is okay, but at least I understood why they'd been so upset about some of the things in the previous game.

The more we talked through the game, just about the game being played, not about the previous one, the more I was able to understand their level of ignorance, and hopefully, educate them about some of the finer points of soccer. I learned that yes, they get excited about the game, and tend to be a little on the aggressive side. But it's because they're passionate about their kids. I may not agree with the way they yell at their kids while their kids play, but off the field, they were loving, compassionate moms and dads.

Instead of viewing them as "the enemy," I realized that they're just people. People who are ignorant, but open to new information. We have different philosophies. They are more focused on the win. We want our girls to develop skills and have fun- winning is just the icing. We all appreciate good plays. We all want to see our girls do their best.

The next time we play this team, I expect we'll have another tough game. Both teams have good players. But I think, when I meet the parents on the field, we'll be greeting each other like friends, rather than fearing that the other parents are going to take us out. I'll still be praying for them, and their kids.

As I thought about today's game, I realized that not knowing our enemies and their perspectives often limits our ability to love them. I had more compassion for the other parents knowing that so much of their anger stemmed from ignorance. I respected them more when I realized how much they loved their kids. I had to wonder about our other enemies. Do we hate them simply because we don't understand their perspective? Would we like them better if only we understood where they were coming from? If we saw things about our enemies that reminded us of ourselves?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Who is righteous? And does it matter?

I've been wanting to post this for a while, but honestly, I've been ashamed. One of the enemies I struggle with, someone I've posted about before, attacked me recently. And I violated my promise to myself that I wouldn't say anything back. Yep, I made a snarky little comment because the hurt I'd been keeping in finally boiled over. It wasn't the right thing to do. Sure, it felt good for a moment, especially because others backed me up, but inside, I had the sick feeling of knowing that in being right, I was wrong. Terribly wrong.

In our critique group last week, one of my critique partners brought a piece she said was rough and she didn't know what to do with it. I don't know if it will ever be something more than just a simple outpouring of her heart, but it touched me profoundly.

She quoted Ecclesiastes 7:16 "16 Do not be overly righteous, Nor be overly wise: Why should you destroy yourself?"

The point she made with it was that in her argument with someone, she was right. But the more she tried to press her point, the worse things got for her. Even though she was right, she was wrong to demand to be acknowledged as right. In being righteous and wise, she destroyed herself.

I realized, as I let the words hit me in the heart, I was being overly righteous with my enemy. She is wrong. On a lot of levels. But that does not give me the right to act wrongly towards her in my pursuit of justice. Because yes, I want for her to acknowledge that she has mistreated me. I want for her to offer me a sincere apology for all the things she's done to me. Honestly, I'd just settle for her not being so mean to me. But God says, "it is mine to avenge." Deut 32:35 says it plain as day, and it is quoted throughout the Bible.

So why am I puffing myself up in righteousness, thinking that it will somehow bring this person to justice? All I'm doing is bringing myself down. This person is not going to change based on my attempts to change her. She is probably looking at the situation, thinking she is the one who is right. That she somehow has the obligation to treat me the way she does because in some way it is righting a wrong. Her puffed up righteousness is bringing her to ruin just as surely as it is to me.

Will I see the day? I don't know. I don't even know that I can have the right heart about it. Proverbs 24:17-18 says "17 Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice, 18 or the LORD will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from him." Ouch. I guess there is still a lot of work to be done in my heart.

Somehow, I'd thought it was enough to not attack back. But God requires something deeper from our hearts. Maybe that's why I got to the point that I simply couldn't take any more. I'd outwardly been obedient and not attacked back. But inwardly, my heart was (and still is) filled with so much ugliness toward this person, it was bound to come out. I pray that I can find a way to love this person, not just on the surface level, but deep within my heart.

What is better? To be right? Or to be right with God? I've been right for a long time, but I desperately want to be right with God.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Talk about a little conviction

One of my favorite Bible teachers is Joyce Meyer. Tonight, as I was listening to her teach on TV, she talked about random acts of kindness and how it could impact the world. And then she said, "if it happens to be one of your enemies, then all the better!"

I have to admit that I've been selfishly thinking about some of the situations in life, and in particular one of my enemies. I've been glad that this person has stepped out of my life. Glad I don't have to interact with this person. I've been worrying lately that I will be asked to help this person. The truth is, I don't want to help this person. I feel like this person takes and takes from everyone around him/her. So think, why me too?

But as I've listened to Joyce talk, I've been giving more serious thought and consideration to the idea that I'm being selfish in my fears in regards to being asked to help, and God forbid, spend time with this person. I've been worried about being asked by someone else, but given that I already know the need, shouldn't I just be taking care of it?

I can't find a single place in the Bible that says we don't have to help people we don't think deserve it. It doesn't say we shouldn't help people we don't like. It says we're supposed to go the extra mile for our enemies.

Choosing to follow Christ doesn't always mean choosing the convenient route. Which means I need to make a few calls and see about meeting these needs.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Thinking before plunging in

I often battle with the idea of thinking before speaking. My mouth is permanently stretched from all the times it's had my foot inserted. And lately, it's one of the things God's been working hard with me on.

There's a particular person in my life known for her rude and negative comments. In the past, when I've responded, the results haven't been pretty, and somehow, she ends up being the victim even though the only thing I'd done was defend myself against her. So I've stopped responding. The barbs get ignored, and I try to pray grace over her. To be honest, it's really hard. I don't understand why God allows this person to continue to get away with being so mean and unkind. Why does she get grace when I get stomped on?

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Turn the other cheek and all that. Someday it'll make sense. But it sure doesn't do much to ease the hurt over things she says.

So today, in a seemingly unrelated incident on Facebook, someone posts a mean comment about one of my pictures. Now, I don't know this person. Based on her profile, I believe we're "friends" because we belong to some of the same groups and have other friends in common. But I don't know her. So here's this mean comment about me, and I'm thinking, "who are you, and why are you being so mean?"

My initial thought was that I was going to send her a note to say, "I don't know why you posted such an unkind thing. I don't know you, and I'd appreciate it if you have some problem with me to address it privately, rather than through public meanness."

I started thinking about it some more. Read everything on her profile to try to figure out who she was and why she would say such a thing. Maybe it was a joke. So I waited for the punchline. Nothing. I continued looking at her profile, trying to figure out what to do. She appeared to be a Christian. She seemed like a nice person. Why would she say something so mean? Maybe she didn't know it was mean. Maybe she had a problem with me that I didn't know about. I redrafted my response in my head. And I prayed some more.

I felt a lot like I do when the negative person in my life is unkind to me. And I really felt like God was asking me to give this new person grace. And again, it kinda made me mad. Why do other people get to get away with saying whatever's on their mind, but I have to keep it all inside?

So I said nothing. Did nothing. Deleted the rude comment and left it at that. A couple hours later, I logged back on and this person had updated, apologizing profusely to people in general because her account had been hacked. I thought about how she must feel, the victim of a hacker, to have an inbox full of emails from people. Even though I certainly wasn't mean in what I wanted to say, it probably would have added to the frustration she was feeling.

That got me thinking about the very real mean person in my life. I honestly don't know why she's so mean to me. I could hazard a few guesses, but they don't really matter. I do know she's hurting. I know her life isn't as perfect as the image she likes to put out there.

I didn't understand why God kept me from saying something to the crazy Facebook lady today until later... until after my thoughtless words could have made a difficult day even more difficult for her. Given the longstanding nature of how my conflict with this other person has been, I can't even imagine what is really happening behind the scenes. What I do understand is that I have to be patient with whatever process God has going on... even though it's really hard. Because I don't understand. And in the meantime, I'm being pelted with a lot of ugliness that I can't do anything about. Except trust. And pray

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Meeting Needs

I recently got an email from an "enemy" who belongs to the same group I do. I don't like or get along with this person, and as much as I try to find ways to like this person, this person drives me up the wall. This person emailed the group expressing a need.

My immediate thought was, "of course so-and-so has a need. This person always has a need."

Then God tapped me on the shoulder and reminded me that I was capable of meeting the need.

As if.

I prayed. And I explained how I was tired of this person taking advantage of everyone else. How I was not going to be one more person enabling this person's bad choices. Now, let's be clear here. I am not talking about an addiction or anything life-threatening.

But I started thinking about all the things I had asked God for. How I wanted to bless others through my resources. Here I was, with the resources to bless someone, and I was choosing not to because I didn't like this person, and I didn't think this person deserved it. Selfish much?

So I emailed the person. I offered to meet the need. And yes, I had every intention of doing so. The person emailed back and let me know the need was already met. Phew! Except I have to admit to being slightly disappointed. Once I'd talked myself into meeting this person's need, I was looking forward to seeing why God was pushing me in this direction. What great thing did He have in store?

The amazing thing about choosing to love your enemies is not that you will end up being best friends with them. Frankly, I still don't like this person. But in choosing to make myself available to meet this person's needs, I made myself available to meet God. And it ended up being a rich encounter with Him I wouldn't have had otherwise.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

A gap in posts isn't a gap in struggles

Every time I look at my other blog, I see this one and think, man, I need to post something. But what?

I'd like to say I've defeated my enemies, or at least stopped struggling with my angry thoughts about them. The truth is, my heart is just as ugly and struggling as it's always been.

Lately, though, I've had the perspective that while I still haven't figured it out yet, God loves me anyway. He's not going to love me more or less based on my love (or lack thereof) for my enemies. It doesn't mean I'm not going to stop trying to figure it out, but it takes off a lot of the pressure I've been putting on myself.

How about you? How are you dealing with your struggles with your enemies?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Believing the best

Michael Hyatt had an interesting post today about his commitments to Barack Obama. One of the things he talked about was assuming Obama's motives were good. It reminded me of a conversation I had with a good friend a couple of months ago. She said that she felt convicted over the fact that she's becoming more jaded. One of the things she felt like the Holy Spirit was telling her was that she needed to start believing the best of people again.

Believing the best of people...

I have to admit, I tend to believe the worst of people. Not so much that I listen to rumors and negativity, but I tend to assume that their motivations are bad.

As I think about my enemies, I wonder if part of the problem is my negative assumptions. Do I believe the best or worst of them? Am I setting them up for failure because I'm not even giving them a chance?

Are they my enemies because I want them to be my enemies?

I started to think more about this, and wondered where God might fit in to this. Does he believe the best or the worst of us? I have to think that because He knows everything about us, and loves us anyway, that He must believe the best of us. Despite all of our badness, He still sees something in us to love.

Lord, help me to believe the best. To see people as you see them. I have to think that if you can love the worst of sinners, it is because you believe the best in them. And maybe, if I can learn to believe the best in my enemies, I could find a way to love them, too.