I’ve been sitting on this post for some time – not that I had written it, but I had been mulling it over in my mind for the past several weeks thinking about how to write it and even whether I should write it. The irony is that it stemmed from a situation in which I said too much so the idea of even writing about it futher is one with which I struggled for some time. I decided, perhaps against better judgement or because of better judgement to go ahead and write.
Some time ago, a friend had posted something about the health care bill passing. This friend works in the health industry and works for an organization that provides Medicare services to seniors. She had posted a note on Facebook commenting on the passing of the health care bill as a wonderful thing. I responded, in what I thought was a diplomatic way, that I didn’t think it was a good thing and explained why. This prompted a series of back and forth discussions on this post between us with a friend of hers weighing in with a number of comments regarding the discussion. In the end, the women who I had believed was a friend ‘unfriended’ me on FB and ‘in life’ as she told me. This saddened me greatly and I tried to reach out and apologize but never received a response. The whole thing has caused me to take a step back and examine what happened and what I can learn from the event. Having a sense that she would likely be removing the thread and me from my life, I took screen grabs of the entire thread so I could go back and reflect on where I had gone wrong and what had happened.
When I was confirmed into the Catholic Church, I chose St. John the Baptist as my Patron Saint. I did so because I felt so inspired by his willingness to speak the truth about what he believed – even to the point of death. Those who really know me know that I am extremely loyal to my friends and will stand by and defend them when necessary, and that I am not one to shy away from standing by my own beliefs and what I hold to be true in my heart. My faith has taught me the value in not being willing to sacrifice the core good of my morals in order to prop up another good.
I learned several things about myself in this exchange as well as about others. I learned that while I have a need to stand up a speak the truth, I can refrain from doing so when my opinion is not asked. The woman involved was celebrating as a result of the struggles that she has seen working with the seniors who are unable to receive care. I understand that completely. My interjection of my opinion was an impetuous response and one in which I could have kept to myself. My need to share the truth doesn’t always have to come at the expense of others and this is an area in which I need to work and grow. I suppose my need to ‘speak the truth’ comes from my own upbringing and beliefs as well as listening to such outspoken and direct people of the Catholic faith like Fr. Larry Richards and Fr. John Corapi who are ‘no holds barred’ kind of guys.
Around this time, a mutual friend of the woman involved gently and lovingly reminded me of this when she noted ‘Sometimes people don’t want to hear what we have to say.’ This spoke volumes to me as it was a reminder that not wanting to hear what we have to say stems from two sources: 1) we don’t need to say what we think all the time and 2) the receiver doesn’t always want to hear it because they just don’t want to hear it but also because sometimes the truth hurts.
I had mistakenly believed that our friendship based on our common love of Christ and desire to follow His will would be stronger than ideological beliefs regarding the political situation of this country right now. I was wrong.
I also mistakenly believed that she would understand that I was not a) attacking her personally b) attacking those who wrote the bill or c) attacking her friend who got involved. I was also wrong on that front. I took great pains to ensure that my thread pertained ONLY to the bill and what it said – nothing personal about anyone. Sadly, this was not the case on her part or the part of her friend. She attacked me personally, even after I apologized to her repeatedly in the thread and in a personal thread I had written to her. My comments were regarding how the bill expanded the abortion industry by mandating that health care insurance packages include coverage for abortions – she responded with a judgmental comments regarding women who chose to have abortions needing to make better choices in their life regarding their sexual activity. The whole thread was a terrible experience.
What I realized, however, is that this was a friendship based on a mountain of sand. I tried to engage in a rational discussion about something on which we disagreed and it ended badly. Should I have even initiated the discussion? No. I shouldn’t and I recognize that now. I was saddened to lose someone I thought was a friend, but as I look back and reread the posts and look at how she allowed her other friend to belittle and attack me personally while I maintained the decorum of discussion to the ideas being discussed, I realize that she wasn’t really my friend at all. That too makes me sad.
I sent several apologies with this one being the last:
I have spent the morning feeling sick about what has happened. In stepping away to clean my house and somehow get rid of the sick feeling in my stomach, I had a wonderful gift of grace from God. It is with a humble heart that I ask you to take the time to read what happened to me.
I believe that in everything that happens to us there is a gift of grace from God. Sometimes its something painful for us to acknowledge and is difficult to see – but its definitely there and is often seen or not seen based on our willingness to open our hearts and minds to the message. Mostly its a lesson for us and I am thankful that God shared with me a beautiful lesson about myself as a result of the interaction on FB the past few days. It was a painful lesson, but one that He clearly needed for me to see.
The lesson actually started yesterday at my Bible study only I hadn’t yet seen it. We were studying Matthew 22 and 23 yesterday. One passage in particular stood out for me:
Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted. – Matthew 23:12
It was the one passage in all the reading that was jumping out at me – though I was unable to see the message in it yet. During the video presentation, Jeff Cavins talked about the passage:
You blind guides who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel – Matthew 23:24
He gave an example of how we are able to sit in Church and criticize a portion of the homily/sermon, or for Catholics whether or not the host was held high enough in the air etc… but then we walk out the door and get in our cars to drive home and we gossip or say something unkind about someone. In other words, we criticize those in Church for not being holy enough and walk out the door and behave in an unholy way ourselves. Again, He was trying to send me a message only I still wasn’t hearing it.
And then it hit me – this morning. It hit me straight on in the face like a freight train – a whole big can of self-realization whoop ass. It was so humbling and powerful I was brought to tears.
I looked back at what happened from my initial post on Sunday night and realized that my comment in response to your post was an impetuous act as a result of the angst that I was feeling. Rather than consider your feelings of hope and excitement for the help that it would give those with whom you work, I selfishly considered my own feelings. What ensued turned into a prideful and self-righteous exchange thinly veiled as a right to defend myself self and freedom of speech.
Had I been considerate, I would have simply overlooked your comments and allowed you to enjoy what this meant for those with whom you work (hence my apologies for ‘raining on your parade’). Had I been respectful of your wish to not comment further, I would have simply turned the other cheek at any response to my comment and quietly gone away. I apologize for not been respectful in that aspect.
While I am saddened to think I have lost you as a friend, I am grateful for the gift of grace (albeit a painful one!) that God has given me in recognizing that I need to be aware of my own selfish needs and anger and that it is absolutely necessary to put them aside in order to treat others as God would want me to treat them and to honor the wishes of my friends. The lessons that are the hardest to learn often turn out to be the most valuable.
I had been struggling this Lent feeling distanced from God and distracted. I had been praying for Him to draw me in and draw me closer. As dear sweet Mother Teresa says – ‘I know that God only gives me what I can handle, but I only wish He didn’t trust me so much.’. God answered my prayer – loud and clear and in multitudes. The minute I opened my heart and mind, in flowed a wave of realization.
I hope that you will find it in your heart to forgive me for my humanness and stumbling as a Sister in Christ. I greatly respect your desire to work hard for those you help and the deep and sincere concern that you have for them and am happy to resolve to not further discuss health care reform My Mother is a Non-Denominational Minister, her sister – my Aunt – is a Presbyterian Minister, and I am a Roman Catholic convert. We do our best to not discuss theology as it usually doesn’t end well!!! Somehow we manage to get by.
I really have enjoyed our friendship and being able to share our common ground in Christian faith – I pray that we can move past this and see that friendship grow.
“People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered; Forgive them anyway.” – Mother Teresa
I wish her all the best in life and she remains in my prayers. I am guarded and cautious in my comments and responses to people these days which is, perhaps, a good thing. I have learned that those who really know me will know and love me for who I am – warts and all – and those who don’t will fall away not wanting to understand. There are several billions of people on the planet and not all of them are going to like or love me. I’m learning to be okay with that.