20 Sep Mirror of Wrongdoing
Recently, my dad had a falling out with a long-time friend.
He’s not entirely sure what caused it, but he suspects that a comment he made one morning over breakfast hurt his friend’s feelings. Dad tried for several weeks to get in touch with his friend, sending texts, leaving messages, even asking mutual acquaintances if they knew anything about his friend.
That was a couple months ago. Dad hasn’t heard a word from his friend since.
I think several of us in my family were a little angry on his behalf, angry that this friendship of so many years ended without even an explanation. But Dad was mostly sad. I asked him a couple weeks after it happened how he was doing. I’ll never forget how he responded.
“Dad hasn’t heard a word from his friend since.”
He was upset. He wished his friend would at least respond and say what had bothered him. “But you know,” he told me, “I’ve probably done the same thing to someone else before.”
He recalled another friend who went to the church that we attended before moving to Grace, someone he had cared about and respected. He wished that, instead of leaving so abruptly, he had taken the time to go to that person and explain why we had decided not to stay.
It might have been the most humble, self-reflective response to an injury that I’ve ever heard. He didn’t deny his own pain, but instead of becoming bitter about the wrong done to him, he used it as an opportunity to examine himself, to hold the mirror of wrongdoing up to his own life.
My dad’s response was poignant to me because it wasn’t typical. Even as Christians, we’re slow to see our own sin in the wrongs done to us; we only see others’ sin. And this instinct to see ourselves as wounded instead of wounders is spiritually hereditary. It’s all throughout the Bible: Peter’s hurt response to Jesus’ threefold “Do you love me?”; David’s anger at Nathan’s tale of the thieving rich man; Jacob’s shock at his uncle’s deception; Adam’s finger-pointing to Eve at the Lord’s questioning.
“He didn’t deny his own pain, but instead of becoming bitter about the wrong done to him, he used it as an opportunity to examine himself, to hold the mirror of wrongdoing up to his own life.”
I am no better. For example (and there are plenty of examples), punctuality and reliability are important characteristics to me, so when others come in late to meetings or don’t arrive when they say they will, whatever the reason, I take it as a personal offense. But just sitting here, thinking about it, I could count on a least one hand—probably two—the times that I’ve come into a meeting late, had to postpone or cancel, and even, on one occasion, neglected to show up entirely. I’m quick to assume character flaws in others for tardiness, but I expect grace when it’s me who is strolling in late. Talk about a character flaw.
I have wondered if, in those seven extra years that he had to work for Rachel, Jacob ever thought, “This must be what I put Esau through when I deceived him.” We may never know what was going on in Jacob’s heart during that time, but that isn’t really our concern. The question is, will we learn the lesson that God was trying to teach Jacob, namely, that we are quick to point out the hurt caused by others while ignoring the hurt we have caused. I think my dad learned that lesson. I hope that it won’t take too many wounds for me to learn it also.
Sarah LaCourse has minimal talent in a few areas—writing, art, singing, DIYing— and exceptional talent in one area: thrifting. She loves having been raised in Greenville with her incredible family and wonderful friends and hopes to live here for a long time. She is the Student Ministry Administrator at our Pelham campus.