Sometimes, I am a jerk. Sometimes, I lash out at people who do not deserve it. When I do this, it is because I am in pain. Physical (caffeine headache), mental (this tool doesn’t work), or emotional (that hurt my feelings) pain, and I will lash out. We all will. But stopping to think about the pain the person on the other end of that lashing is in is something we (or at least I) don’t do enough. If I spend all day trying to get a new tool to work, who’s to say the person at the other end of my frustrated email hasn’t been trying too?
Let’s do each other a favor. Let’s identify our pain and give each other some grace. Identifying pain can be hard - we’re in the middle of it and we just want to ignore it so it will go away. That’s my strategy. But it doesn’t go away, and that’s not what God wants for us. He wants to be in our pain with us. Peter Scazzero writes in Emotionally Healthy Spirituality about identifying our “negative” emotions such as anger or fear. Often as Christians we think we are not allowed to have these emotions, because we must be as Jesus is, all-forgiving and all-loving. But this ignores crucial parts of the human experiences, which God wants us to have. The human experience includes pain and anger, and when we ignore these, we deny God the chance to come into it with us and work with us. Scazzero also warns of the negative side effects of not dealing with our emotions of anger and fear properly. He calls it “leaking” when we misdirect our anger or frustration onto a person who probably doesn’t deserve it. I “leak” with sarcasm. I “leak” with passive-aggressive notes to my roommate about buying more dish soap. It protects me and my emotions from dealing with what is making me angry, which might involve an uncomfortable confrontation and/or apology.
The person on the other end of our leaking is probably also experiencing the emotions of anger, fear, and frustration that we are. The person who hurt us in the first place is probably experiencing them too. Jesus was really good at forgiving people who were hateful towards him, and while I am not, I can extend a little bit of grace. When someone sends me an email asking a question on top of my already packed inbox and long to-do list, instead of firing back a nasty reply, I can remind myself that they feel the way I do - they feel the same frustration and pain - and extend them the grace that I need from others. As Scazzero says, only when we have entered into our own pain can we have empathy for and enter into the pain of others without being destroyed ourselves.
The quote at the top is a tired quote. And when I’m frustrated, Ryan Phipps continues to remind me that everyone I meet is experiencing pain. I need tired quotes, reminders, and grace that is given to me everyday by God and people who know me to stop leaking and “treat others the way I want to be treated” (which is our elementary memory verse this month too).