What do you do when, despite everything, people don’t do what you want them to?
Surely, this is the real question of life. Surely, if people fell in line, had no comebacks, did as I wanted and/or put up no fight, life would be so much easier, wouldn’t it?
I couldn’t help but think this as my daughter fought me tooth and nail to go to sleep. I couldn’t help but think this as my best efforts were overlooked by family members today. I couldn’t help but think this as I was stood up by a friend, even though we’d made plans – and confirmed them, twice. I couldn’t help but think about how someone dear to me talked behind my back.
I sighed, then thought…
Why can’t people follow through?
Do what they are supposed to do?
Not cause me issues?
Without all their issues, life would be easy. I’d live in continual peace, unending joy, and I’d be kind, considerate and easy-going to boot. But, bring these people into it and they’re a nail in my tire. They deflate me…
Subconsciously, I’m sure, these thoughts swirled in the back of my mind as I gave my son a well-timed lesson. I said, “My dear, we want our ‘yes’ to be ‘yes’ and our ‘no’ to be ‘no.’”
We want people to know we’ll do what we say. That we follow through. That we are considerate…not mess-ups like those horrible meanies who let people down.
(Um. I didn’t say that. But, I guess, I sure thought it.)
My son turned to me and said, “Mommy, you didn’t let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ when I wanted to see the solar eclipse that time.”
And by George, he was right. I didn’t. I forgot that time. Then, I fumbled and bumbled because despite my best intentions, I didn’t follow through. I tried to make up a story as to why it was better to see some half-baked moon, rather than the real deal. I faked it, to cover my mistake. Why? Because I felt horrible.
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (Mt. 7:3)
And maybe it’s the same for these people. Maybe they had good intentions… Maybe they planned to do something good… Maybe they hoped to follow through… Maybe they wanted to see me… Maybe they wished things turned out different… Maybe they hoped they acted differently…
We’re all just trying to do this thing called life. Not one of us has a monopoly on “perfect.”
This thought = freedom.
The more leeway I give to others’ mistakes, the more grace is free to work into mine. It’s a funny thing. Somehow, this wiggle room makes room in my heart, mind and soul for me to contend with the fact we’re all just people trying to do as good as we can. Then, forgiveness and love makes space for others. It allows their explaining, discussing, apologizing. It listens. It understands. It empathizes. In a sense, this gives my own imperfect self the same permission I extend.
In the giving of grace, we learn to receive it. It’s a crazy thing.
Grace to the person who cuts me off. I’ve ripped into the right lane to get off an exit.
Grace to the husband who speaks quickly. I’ve cut him off 100 times.
Grace to the woman who reacts sharply. I’ve had hard days too.
Grace to the mom who is anxious. Oh yes, I’ve walked a day in your shoes.
I’ll give you love and God will give me room to know I can lean back on him, even when I find myself leaning right into a pile full of problems.
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