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Dear Heart On Her Sleeve Wearing Friend,
I want to tell you a story.
Thump, thump, thump.
My heart pounded as I read the words. Someone that I have never met and do not know had written an untruth about me in a public post on Facebook. I wasn't a part of the root of the situation, but I got dragged into the middle of it anyway. Thankfully, the person it was being said to (or written to) had the libel removed within an hour. I doubt many people saw it.
My immediate reaction was laughter because what she said about me was so outrageous, a complete lie, and not within my character at all. But, within a few minutes, my laughter turned into defense mode. Who WAS this person and why did she say these things about me? I blocked her account from my personal Facebook account and went on about my day and my life, but her words nagged at me.
What this woman said about me hurt me. A complete stranger had managed to hurt my heart and what was worse: I was allowing a complete stranger to hurt my heart.
A symptom of hurt is anger. When we feel hurt, a natural reaction is to hit back and hurt the one who has hurt us. One thing I know to be true is this: hurt people hurt people. When my anger over the situation kicked in, I wanted to confront this woman. I wanted to send her a passive aggressive, sarcastic message that said something like:
"Hi, you don't know me, but since you've felt comfortable enough to publicly make assumptions about my life and accuse me of things I haven't done, I thought I should at least introduce myself. My name is Julie. I squeeze my toothpaste from the bottom of the tube. I love bacon. Clowns have never really scared me. When I say 'comfortable,' I pronounce every syllable. Is there anything else you would like to know?"
I mean, seriously, the hospitable part of me was in a pickle, ya'll. What is the protocol for a proper introduction in these situations? Did I have to consult Emily Post's Etiquette, or was winging it ok?
Sarcasm aside: words matter and they are powerful. When we feel brave enough to say things about other people, do we stop first to consider that the person we are speaking of is a REAL person, just like us, who has feelings and a life and friends and family who love them? Do we stop to think that maybe this person sees a side to the situation that we cannot see?
I recently heard someone say, "There are three sides to every situation. The side I cannot see, the side you cannot see, and the side we both cannot see."
As my hurt turned to anger and as my anger began to steal my peace and joy, I shared the situation with a trusted friend who often speaks truth to me. I said: I do not want to be bitter over a stranger's false accusation. What is wrong with me? Why does this bother me so much?
She said, well, it bothers you so much because (1) it was a lie, about you, that was posted in a public forum and because (2) you have a natural tendency to want people to like you. Hi, my name is Julie and I have a disease known as the need to please others. It is really unhealthy, but I'm working on it.
After a healthy talk with my friend and the realization that this woman's rant really wasn't about ME or anything I had done, I stopped to consider this person. She is a valuable human being, after all, made by the same God who made each and everyone one of us in His image. Through this lens, I wondered about her. What was she like? Did she like to cook? When she laughed was it a giggle, or was it a throw your head back and belly laugh until you cry kind of laugh? What was her life scripting that she would think an acceptable reaction to being hurt would be to publicly lash out on Facebook, for anyone to see, instead of privately sharing her thoughts? I knew that there was a side to the situation that she could not see (mine), but what I really asked myself was: what side of the situation could I not see?
I didn't have an answer to that and most likely never will, because like I said, I don't even know this person and I never sent her a message about my toothpaste tube pushing habits in an effort to introduce myself, but what I realized is that my being offended by what she wrote was equivalent to being offended if she had written that Doritos were purple and tasted like crushed ginger. They were just words written on Facebook. That didn't make them the truth.
I could choose to accept that she wanted her words to be her truth. I could choose to not allow her words to become my truth. I could choose to let it go. I could choose to be ok that she may be someone who just doesn't like me. I could choose to forgive her. I could choose to embrace my peace and joy and not allow bitterness to steal it away. I could choose to see her as someone like me and like you...flawed, emotional, and in need of grace.
In His Grace,