Awkward Social Situations and Hurt Feelings . . .

1 Aug

Proverbs 19:11, “The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression.”

What do you do when someone in your local body of believers hurts your feelings?

In this case, let’s have it be something that happens that is not sin, just personal preference.  Say you invite a family to your home for dessert and fellowship and . . . they accept but later ask whether the time might be changed to later on in the day, due to children’s naps.  And you can’t change the time, due to work commitments your spouse has.  So you leave the time as it is.

Then you get a note a couple of hours before the family is due to arrive that says they can’t come.  No explanation offered.  Later on, you see on social media that they received another invitation for the time they preferred to be out and went there instead. 

Oh, my friends, we so hate that kind of thing, don’t we?  We want to get on our spiritual high horse and make a case against that person, at least quietly with our spouse, where we can feel quite virtuous about it all.  But should we?  What does Proverbs 19:11 teach us?             

Several ideas spring to mind after reading that text:

1)    My feelings are not the gold standard for everyone’s behavior.  If they were, I would be making my feelings into a god (an idol!).  It would be nice if everyone understood that it is not nice to cancel an invitation right before you are due to arrive and that it is disingenuous, if you cancel an earlier invitation and take a later one, to put it on social media so the host you turned down can see what you did.

2)    Personal choices and preferences are not sinful, in and of themselves.  Scripture is sufficient to tell us how to live, but in some situations it grants the person liberty of conscience and freedom of choice.  We don’t get to make up righteous-sounding rules and hold other people to them.  My personal rule is that I never break an invitation I have accepted for a later one that is offered.  But that rule is my personal choice, and nothing more.

3)    Not everyone will agree about things relating to children—sure they can nap at someone else’s house, but not everyone is equally comfortable with that.  And not everyone is going to tell me if that discomfort is there.  Mysterious last minute cancellations have been part of the human race since the beginning and always will be.  Think of Adam and Eve standing God up in the garden in the heat of the day!

4)    If I don’t take something as rejection, it isn’t.  Even if someone purposely set out to make a fool of someone else, which certainly would not be the case in the example given, you can’t be made a fool if you keep on being kind to the person who is trying to agitate you.  Actually, if someone were wicked enough to purposely set up a situation to try to make me look foolish, the best defense would be to keep playing like I didn’t notice a thing.  It’s no fun to do things like that when the crimson flush of humiliation never happens to your intended victim!!!      

5)    It is possible to find the silver lining in any situation.  In this case, I could remind myself that my spouse had work commitments originally and still has them.  So he now has several additional hours to take care of them.  He’s happy, I’m happy.  And those desserts that we don’t need to eat by ourselves?  Maybe there were neighbors who recently brought us over baked goods who would be thrilled to get a whole apple pie or half of a cheesecake. 

6)    Grace helps everyone to grow in a local body of believers.  If these young parents seem to not understand how hard I worked to prepare for their visit or seem to discount my feelings in how they notify me that they won’t be coming, wouldn’t it be nice for me to extend them grace and stop the graceless transaction right there?  Sure, someone might perceive that the young family “got away with” hurting my feelings, but that’s not really true if I have chosen to pass over the hurtful situation and extend grace.  God knows the hearts and He will reward my obedience in refusing to make a federal case out of something that is just a personal choice.  He is the author of grace.

7)     We all like to feel needed and wanted and included, but the fact is that we will all be left out of something at some time.  If we let that define us, it is going to be a long and very hard life.  Jesus wanted fellowship with me enough that He was willing to go to the cross to buy me back from sin’s clutches.  I am already included, accepted in the beloved, as the Bible says.  The other events are just backstory in my journey to learn to live in fellowship with Him.  Sometimes relationships will flow effortlessly; sometimes they will take a bit more work.  I can’t control that but I can take God’s perspective that it is glory to let a lot of stuff go. 

When I want to serve Him more than I want to preserve my image with other believers, I will pass over these types of actions on the part of others.  My walk with the Lord will be unassailably peaceful as I do.

My Presbyterian friends have the saying, “Preach yourself a sermon.”  Hope that little sermon, above, helps us all to pass over offenses within the Body of Christ, intentional and otherwise.  He is worth it!!!

P.S.  In case anyone is wondering whether the above situation actually happened, it did, but long enough ago that I don’t think the family involved would recognize themselves, even if they read this. 

P.P.S.  And how did I react?  Just as I wrote above.  Not to say I am always able to put on the mind of Christ so readily, but in this case I did.  The family ended up leaving our church, so probably more was going on than met the eye anyway.

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One Response to “Awkward Social Situations and Hurt Feelings . . .”

  1. Alea Milham (@AleasLeftovers) August 4, 2012 at 1:09 AM #

    Mary, this post touched my heart! Like all people, I have had my feeling hurt and have had to choose how I would react and how I would view the slight. I appreciate that you have expanded my choices.

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