Have you noticed that how easy it is to hurt someone’s feelings without even trying? Often the very same things that have been said or done a hundred times before, this time hits a nerve and leaves another person feeling abused and misused. Where a person is and what has been going on in their life deeply affects how they respond to another persons words or actions. Truthfully, how healthy one feels physically, emotionally and spiritually makes a tremendous amount of difference in how we react to what another person says or does. It is easy when you are the offender to think that you have been misunderstood or that it isn’t fair that our actions can’t be taken the same way every time.
How can you know what is acceptable with another person if their reaction is different each time you do something? Think about it for moment. I don’t know about you, but I don’t react to the the same thing every time it happens in the same way. Under some circumstances a person can say something that would seem offensive but not be taken that way at all because of who they are and even the expression on their face. But if someone else tries to join in to the same comment and says something very similar to the other person, I can either be hurt, frustrated or downright angry in response. Why does it work that way?
If you had a computer that reacted differently when you did the same thing over and over again you would likely want to take it back to the place you purchased it. Imagine the complaint you would offer to the customer service person. “This computer is crazy. I do the exact same thing over and over again and get entirely different reactions. I want a new one and truthfully I think I want a different brand this time.” Why are we so uptight over a machine that reacts differently to the same actions? Because it is a machine. It doesn’t have the ability to reason, to think and respond with feeling about what you do. It doesn’t have emotions. It doesn’t wake up one day feeling down. It doesn’t fear how others will think or feel about them. It never gets its feelings hurt because you have ignored it for the last few days.
Animals can be taught to give certain responses to particular actions. They learn that if they do some things in certain ways that it results in food or drink or even a stomach rub.
But people are different. Humans are the most complicated of all creation. When God made every plant, animal, river, mountain and valley He declared that it was good. But it was entirely different when He made man. God said, “Let us make man in our own image and in our own likeness.” Both male and female were made in the very image of God Almighty. No wonder the Psalmist David said, “When I consider the heavens, the moon and the stars that You have made, what is man that you are mindful of him or the son of man that you visit him. You made him a little lower than the angels and crowned him with glory and honor and put all things under his care.” It is interesting that the word translated “Angels” by David is from the Hebrew word “Elohim” usually translated “God.” Many newer translations translate it as “God.” Whether it is to be taken as angels or as God it is a powerful declaration of the important place God intended for humans to fill.
Because we are made in God’s image, because we are beings of intellect, feelings, passions and conscience we can’t be programed like any machine. While I like predictability in a computer, I wouldn’t want my wife to be so predictable. Part of the mystery of the marriage relationship is the difference that is there from one time to another. Part of the challenge of marriage is figuring out what our partner will be like today, at this time in the day and in what happens at any given time.
Since we expect that in the one we love dearly and partner with every day, why do we act surprised with other people when they react differently to the same actions? What then are we to do when we realize that we have hurt someone unknowingly? We can either shout “This isn’t fair” or we can begin to try making things right again. With people, it is painfully clear that we won’t always be able to make things right no matter how hard we try. Some times the hurt may have been felt so deeply that the wound won’t heal. Some friendships will never be restored. Some relationships will never be rebuilt. Should it be that way? I don’t think so. But reality isn’t always as it should be. A person has to be willing to try to make things right but if it becomes obvious that nothing we do will make things right, we can’t continue to beat ourselves up or continue to try to accomplish something that isn’t to be. Telling others that they are supposed to forgive and turn things loose seldom has much affect on what they actually do. Thank God we serve a God who will forgive us every time we turn from the sin, to Him obediently. That doesn’t mean we can intentionally do the same things over and over again turning to God to say “Forgive me” and expect to be forgiven. God knows the heart. He knows if our turning from sin to Him is for real or just a superficial effort to appease a guilty conscience. Paul asked the church in Galatia if he had become their enemy by telling them the truth. Quite often that is exactly what happens. Not all truth is worth telling or retelling. Somethings that are true of a person ought to be left unsaid and even unremembered. They have changed and are different people now. Why bring up things that only cause pain. At the same time there are truths that must be told. Some things about life will never change for good unless someone tells us the truth we need to hear.
When I was younger it was common when a doctor discovered that a person had some incurable disease such as a fatal cancer that family and even the doctor would decide not to tell the person. Why let them know they wouldn’t get any better and that life would soon end? Yet, who among us would choose that for ourselves if we were the ones with the illness? Would you not want the chance to make changes that could be made before death came? Would you not want the chance to tell ones you love some final things about matters of great importance? As with Hezekiah the king when God sent Isaiah the prophet to tell him to set his house in order because he was to die, we might react by crying out to God for mercy. In his case God granted his prayer and gave him fifteen more years. The Bible doesn’t tell us what happened fifteen years later when the time was coming up when his extension would run out. My guess is that Hezekiah tried to get another extension. Truth can be hard to take. It can also be the greatest blessing of life in that it forces us to face something that we never would have otherwise. What if you knew some truth that a friend desperately needed to hear, but you knew it would likely destroy your friendship to tell them? What would you do? If the situation were reversed, what would you want them to do? It is worth thinking about.