The other day while walking into a meeting, I slipped and fell on the ice.
Yes, it was snowing, and no, I didn’t have the best shoes on for winter walking. But I was still shocked, looking around from where I now sat stupidly on the sidewalk, my knee and hip aching. And my first thought, even before “I hope I’m ok?”, was: I hope no one saw that.
Embarrassed, I pushed myself up, picked up my scattered belongings, and inched my way slowly towards the door of the building. Despite the black and blue bruises now rising on my leg, the real pain was to my pride. I must have looked like such an idiot, I thought. Who doesn’t walk slowly when it’s snowing?
Later that same day, I learned that someone close to me was mocking me for things I’ve written on this blog.
If I thought my self-esteem took a blow with a slip-and-fall, this news wounded much more deeply. Whenever you write something, especially on subjects that are close to your heart, you know that you putting yourself in a vulnerable position. People may disagree with you or insult what you love.
But you usually hope the criticism – or worse, mockery – will come from anonymous sources that would be easy to ignore. Not from someone very close to you.
I nursed the blow to my ego for a solid eight hours of restless sleep. Then I woke up to a cold black dawn and a gnawing feeling in my gut. I thought about how I did not want this to ruin my day. I had too much work to do, and the babysitter wasn’t coming that afternoon – I would have to be on task and not distracted by my own pity party.
I tried to pray for forgiveness and a loving heart. But, like my throbbing leg, my ego was bruised too raw to let me forgive quite yet.
So I tried to think about the situation from another perspective. What was I going to do, as a mother, when S found himself in the same position? Because life guarantees that he will. He will fall in front of peers who laugh at him. He will have friends who turn against him. He will struggle in school, or get cut from a team, or lose a job, and his pride will be so wounded and angry that he doesn’t want to get out of bed in the morning.
What will I do then?
Will I try to jolly him along with the kind of motherly platitudes that every kid rolls their eyes to hear? I think you’re the smartest, the best. It’ll get better next time. No one will even remember tomorrow. Your real friends will stick by you.
Will I make the mistake of not seeing the depth of his pain, of brushing off his hurt because I’m distracted by my own worries and to-dos?
Or will I be there to listen to him, to offer a hug and a sincere That really stinks. I bet that hurt, a lot. How are you feeling? What can we do to get through this?
Will I help him to navigate the thorny path of forgiveness – the real kind of forgiveness that doesn’t lay down and let people walk all over you, but that asserts your position while trying hard to understand the other person, and ultimately hands over to God the situations that cannot be resolved?
I hope I can do that. I’m honestly intimidated by the prospect. I feel like a lousy role model at forgiveness some days, and I pray that he will do better. But I know that he will learn from me, for better or for worse.
So I have to do my part to set an example. Maybe I have to tend to the wounded pride for a day or two, like icing a knee or limping on a sore hip. But then I must move on. Resolve not to be daunted – in love or in any of the other calls I’ve been given. Pray for a heart that seeks peace and not revenge. Remember how it feels to be on the receiving end of cruel jokes. Reconsider the next time I leap to judge or criticize or laugh at someone else’s expense.
Like water off a duck’s back, my own mother used to tell me. That’s how you have to let other people’s words just roll off your shoulders.
Darn it if that platitude didn’t turn out to be 100% right.