I got told off by a friend last week. Like – really told off, not just a tut and a sigh. She wasn’t rude or unkind, she didn’t yell and she wasn’t flinging insults around. She merely pointed out that I’m a dreadful flake and it’s getting old. I beat a hasty retreat with my head hanging down towards my inward pointing toes, a picture of wounded innocence, to lick my wounds and tell myself how mean and un-called for that was.
It was good to get home to my sanctuary and sit administering tea and sympathy to myself. Listing all the things I had done for her helped nurture the resentment as did looking at my Amazon order history and seeing all the things I had so generously gifted to her. I kept my anger nicely simmering by telling my family how sad I was, presenting detailed soliloquys on her character defects and the various occasions I had felt she was less than perfect. And so, clad in the armour of righteous indignation I decided to go and see her. Having looked at a few very selective motivational/self-care/how to stand up for yourself type texts I drove out there. Traffic was terrible and I found myself sitting on the highway behind a very smug Lexus which somehow infuriated me even more. At some point during the wait however, when I was in the middle of planning my damning attack for about the 57th time, I realized I should pray to be given the right words. After all, God would do a far better job of presenting the case for the prosecution than I would. He did.
On arriving at door to my friends place I felt something funny happening inside – I thought I needed the bathroom! After all I was nervous about confronting her – even though I KNEW I was in the right and totally justified.
She opened the door with an attitude of rolling up her sleeves and I took a deep breath, preparing for battle. My brain was starting my carefully prepared speech… but my mouth… it started saying how sorry I was! It just went on and on .. saying she was right, I do have a dreadful habit of letting people down and bailing on plans at the last minute. And I was really sorry that I’d done this to her repeatedly when she’s one of the people I love best in the world. I over commit myself all the time, and it’s always the people I love most (and who I know love me) that I bail on, because it feels safe to do so with them. A new friend or someone I want to impress in some way always gets priority.
I was stunned. I had asked God for the right words and he had given me exactly what I’d asked for. Obviously when I said “the right words” I meant “the words that will win the argument and prove I’m in the right” but then all this other stuff came out. I felt like a ventriloquist’s dummy! That has never happened to me before. It was weird and more than a little uncomfortable. But boy – the relief of not having to try and defend the indefensible was akin to the first poke into a lave cake!
I use Facebook often enough to know that we’re all encouraged to speak our truth, to stand up in the face of criticism and defend our right to be/say/do whatever we wish without shame. But sometimes, we’re just plain wrong and feeling shame is the right response. Of course I’m not suggesting we carry shame in the long-term. The whole point of Easter is to leave that stuff behind, but that doesn’t mean it’s never appropriate.
My friendship is mended and I’m indebted to God and to my friend for opening my eyes to a very annoying part of my personality – it’s time to put down the flakery.
“But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.” James 5:12