"Your pictures are crooked."
-Fulton J. Sheen
Have you ever had one of those moments where you bomb in front of a lot of people? For some of you, even reading that sentence floods your stomach with butterflies. There is something terrifying in messing up in front of everyone - something so raw and exposing that a lot of people just decide it's never worth the trouble.
When I was in middle school I thought I was hilarious (among other 'great' things...) It was not uncommon for me to take risks with my humor, attempting to get the most people to laugh as possible. During one of our school assemblies, a classmate had given a short little talk and not done so well - in fact, you could say he bombed...so in an attempt to play off of his failure I thought it'd be great to give him a little left hook and stand up and clap loudly and slowly (I told you - I thought I was hilarious...) I proceeded to stand up, start clapping and declare 'Let's give it up for _______"…. except I said the wrong name. The entire student body fell silent and looked at me with such confusion I realized not only had my joke fallen flat, but now I was the one who had bombed.
It sounds twisted, but part of me thought I was ‘relating’ in some way to this person. I thought we would all have a laugh, mostly at his expense and it would be a fun memory. Fortunately for everyone I ended up looking like the idiot…but why did I think this was relating to my classmate? Why is sarcasm such a pillar of our humor?
In our attempts to relate closely with others we have to expose parts of ourselves. This is uncomfortable. We run through the scenarios and try to remove any risk – any chance that we could get hurt. But because of sin we are wounded by others in these moments of vulnerability: the successful A- is met with “It could have been an A”…the thoughtful gift is met with a critical joke…the painful memory is met with a nonchalant “that’s not that bad…” We all have these experiences, seemingly small, but they stick with us throughout life. They are moments that have reaffirmed our deepest fears: “If you put yourself out there, others won’t accept you.”
Most of this is on a subconscious level for us – you probably don’t wake up and think about all the ways people have hurt you and how you are going to hurt others (some days you might). But when we carry these wounds around with us a strange thing happens – we start to wound others. We see someone being vulnerable and we react in ways we have seen others react toward us – “hah! Why would you believe that, that’s dumb!”… “You actually thought this was good??” We want others to fill a void left by the wounds that have hit us over and over again – so we try to get it from them – and in the process we wound them.
I have always heard the language of Jesus 'forgiving me debt' and thought solely of my sin being forgiven. What if we broaden our understanding? Jesus has also forgiven the debts I have incurred from others hurting me. Those pieces of pain that I carry around, wanting to shift on to someone else - he paid for those too. He paid the debt so I don't have to get payment from someone else.
I’m not saying to just get over your pain and pretend it didn’t happen. But the solution is not causing more pain. The solution is encouragement, building others up, stirring one another toward love and good deeds (Heb 10:24). The solution is inviting others in, even at the risk of pain. The solution is walking with others when they invite you in and looking for opportunities to strengthen them and bring healing to their wounded souls.
What will it look like for you to relate to others by building them up, encouraging them and not tearing them down this week?