I was reflecting on some significant advice I’d been given back during my first marriage. Advice might not be the right word; someone else’s opinion maybe. I was given this same opinion twice, within months, but one was cloaked in harshness, the other in gentleness, and looking back, I’m amazed at the difference in how I took it, and in how it took root in me.
This is what I was told first, and it was typed in caps, via email, which connotes yelling in my mind, “I’M NOT SAYING IT’S YOUR FAULT BUT YOU DO HAVE A PART IN IT!” O-k-ay. You know how my mind heard that? IT IS YOUR FAULT AND YOU ARE REALLY THE ONLY ONE WHO’S CONTRIBUTED TO IT AND THEREFORE THE ONLY ONE WHO NEEDS TO WORK ON IT! But maybe that’s just oversensitive little me.
I balked at that opinion. I yelled. I cried. I begged God to make the thing not be my fault. I shrunk back. I recoiled like a turtle finding refuge in its shell. I shut down. I was…broken. Not broken-hearted, though I was. But broken. Something broke in me with those rough, punitive words. I had been blaming myself for years upon years already…yet I had been hoping someone would come along and quietly say, “It is not your fault.” So when I heard those loud words, well, the accusation and shame they carried resonated with what I’d been telling myself (and heard from my then-partner) all along and it was almost too much for me to bear.
But then, I found a different source. I was accused of finding someone who would tell me what I wanted to hear. That may be true. I’m not above that. But I don’t think that’s what happened in this case. I sought out another opinion. I went to find out if the first set of words were true and what that would really mean then.
But the second set of words came differently. The second set was spoken more slowly. In tenderness. In whispers. In emotional lower case.
you did not cause this. you cannot control this. you cannot stop this. however, there are some things you can work on in you.
Oh, my heart thought. And my shoulders loosened, as did my jaw and my fists. If a soul could sigh, mine did deeply. I walked closer to the light, not away from it, because this light was kind and merciful, not blinding and unrelenting. And I sat in stillness for a little while, soaking up some healing.
And then I set to work. Because there really were some things I could work on. And I did.
But here’s what’s absolutely amazing to me. Look back at the capitalized opinion. Then look at the lower-case one. They are, in essence, the very same message. But one made me cry and one made me change.
Which just reiterates a truth of the ages: You can attract more flies with honey… And it will be the warmth of the sun that makes the man loosen his coat and leave it behind over the briskness of the wind every time.
Let your gentleness be evident to all…the Lord is near. –Philippians 4:5 Oh, Lord, let me be that gentle voice in others’ lives. Amen.
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A year ago I also heard those words both ways. I was thankful for the second set of words spoken by more than one person, 3 weeks after the first set, because I really needed to hear it. Wow… What a difference a year makes.