So on Sunday I heard a sermon about being peace makers and one of the points was that if someone sins against you, you go to them in private first of all, you don’t go telling other people.
I often find that God gives me homework soon after a sermon: a chance to put things into practice. (or not…)
Last night, in an online conversation, someone upset me really badly. Not a friend, not a person I have contact with apart from when I bump into her on a mutual friend’s posts. If it was a friend, I probably would have talked to her in private. But this is someone I (rightly or wrongly) perceive as unapproachable, and she had just hurt my feelings really badly, so the thought of talking to her in private never even entered my mind.
In my pain, I turned to a bunch of friends online (in a private group conversation), including the mutual friend on whose post this conversation happened. Which must have been horrible for this mutual friend, but it gets worse: I deliberately didn’t name the person I was talking about, but if I’d been thinking straight I would have realised that there’d be people who would recognise who I was talking about.
The mutual friend’s response was lovely, and loving.
Then another friend responded with a kind of “oh, I find her difficult to deal with too” – this cheered me up, because it confirmed to me that the attitude I’m seeing is not just in my mind, it’s really there.
But then another friend responded with a negative comment about her (having also recognised who I meant) and I thought: oh, hell, what have I done!
And I can’t undo it. I can’t take my words back. Once you’ve shared stuff with people, you can’t ask them to erase it from their minds.
Should I have tried talking to her in private? Would it have helped? It would have meant making myself vulnerable, and my guess is that it wouldn’t have helped, but without trying I will never know. What is very clear to me is that I was wrong in sharing it in a private group conversation – that meant bringing way too many people into it.
So why is this something we so often tend to do? (Yes, I’ve moved from “me” to “us”. I know this is a general human tendency, it’s not just me.) I see at least part of the answer in my reaction to the second reply I got, from the friend who said he also finds her difficult – that’s part of what we’re looking for when we share our hurt with others, we want someone to say “oh yes, this person is really like that, it’s not just you”.
And this is why I’ve been struggling this morning with being sorry for what I did last night: I am sorry I did it, because I recognise it was wrong; but one of the side effects of my sin was so comforting, that it’s difficult to feel truly sorry… And I suppose that’s how it goes with many things we do even though we know we shouldn’t: there’s something about whatever-it-is that we really enjoy, something that is comforting in some way, something that temporarily makes us feel better. So it’s hard to treat it as the bad thing that it is.
Sin wouldn’t happen if it had no attractive qualities. And it wouldn’t be so hard to give up either.