I live a great deal of my life online, sharing thoughts and feelings as well as my art – sharing it all with the general public, including friends and strangers and all that range in between, some people who know me well and some who don’t know me at all and some who know me a little bit. And they are all capable of saying stuff that I may find hurtful – yes, even close friends. Come on, we all know that – even our nearest and dearest, even those who love us, can sometimes step on our toes.
Jesus calls me to be gracious and loving. I definitely don’t always live up to that. I definitely don’t always find it in me to react graciously when someone steps on my toe.
Now and again I’ve found that there’s a kind of build up over time and I reach screaming point and rant about something or other that seriously annoys me in the way people respond to some of my posts (not so much here, mainly on Google+) – and on one level, yes, those rants seem justified because yes, my hurt is real and it really would be nice if people didn’t keep stepping on that particular toe again and again and there’s the hope that if I spell it out, then at least some people would change their behaviour, the ones who care enough about not hurting me. Though experience tells me: they will for a while, and then they’ll forget and go back to their old habits.
So what do I do? Keep repeating my rants again and again?
Somehow I don’t think that’s the answer.
Some will say: you shouldn’t let it get to you. And when I vent my feelings and people say that to me, I feel like screaming – you don’t understand, I can’t just switch off my emotions, and it really hurts!
But when I step away from those conversations and turn to God, and pour my heart out to him – yes, that’s really the only answer, I can’t switch my feelings off but I can turn to God and cry on his shoulder. And somehow, the more I look at God and at what, through Jesus, he has done for me – the more everything else fades away.
I’ve just been reading an interview with a Christian church leader who has been through really painful stuff – his son killed himself, and apparently there were people posting on the internet at the time and celebrating his son’s death! He talks about coping with that, and generally coping with the way people talk about you when you’re in the public eye, and the interviewer says something about having to learn to have a thick skin, to which this guy replies: “A thick skin, and tender heart.” And this really touched me, because yes, I’m called to be a caring and loving person, to have compassion on others – I can’t shut my heart off and just decide not to care any more.
Somehow, with God’s help, I have to remain a caring person in the sense of caring about other people, but not care too much about how other people treat me. When I’m hurt, I need to take that pain to God. He is the one who can give me the comfort I really need. And then, as the Bible says, I can comfort others with the comfort I have received. (2 Cor 1:3-5)