Oh, before I start, I should let you know, this article is a lesson for ME. You may already know all of this. It’s just that I passed another course in the School of Hard Knocks: Emphasis in Spirituality, and I was excited to share with you what I learned.
I’ve had a similar article brewing in my head for a while. Actually, I have about a hundred brewing, but there’s that whole time thing. This one was originally going to be more under a business/life heading, something about when to be a whistleblower, and when not to be. But this last week, with the intensity heating up over marriage definitions, I flew into a Hard Knocks PhD class rather quickly when I opened my mouth. This is a topic more violent than abortion, believe it or not.
I found myself shocked that people like me and my family disagreed with my views. And like I have done before when I get shocked, I sometimes become reactionary. Lesson #1: Do not be reactionary. See it coming, keep your cool, respond kindly, but still stick courageously to the truth.
Now before I get to lesson #2, and the title of the post, I will give you a little background on myself. I was born bold. I was not afraid to point out wrongs when I was three and had already mastered the English language… probably to the exhaustion of my parents. In school, I wasn’t afraid to raise my hand when something didn’t make sense, and I wasn’t afraid to protect a young girl who wasn’t my friend yet but was being bullied, therefore losing my ‘status’ in school for a good 7 years. I became actively pro-life at 15, and then at 16 started the first Teens for Life in South Dakota, and worked with the few other freak adults who, like myself, stood for truth when most people didn’t care or see it as a big deal. I wasn’t afraid to confront my pro-abortion principal at my (Catholic…ahem) high school to start a pro-life group there, again losing favor with her for myself and my family because we stood for truth. You’d think they would have made us Catholics of the year for thinking pregnant mamas were carrying humans that should be protected…. but no. It just wasn’t popular.
Basically I was born with a gift of being loyal and desiring justice for all, to the point where I have been willing to stick my neck out and pay the price to stand up for truth and justice. However, all gifts can also be weaknesses, and can be used the wrong way or for the wrong purpose. And of course, any gift void of love is quite useless in the end…
Fast forward to my adult life. From standing up for teen chastity (because of my graduation from the Teen School of Hard Knocks) all the way to continuing pro-life work, all the way to advocating for charity and purity and unity within the Church, all the way to advocating for humility within certain home school groups and spiritual movements, and all the way to my debates of this last week on Facebook asking as charitably as I could for someone to explain to me their differing views, I am still standing up for my beliefs. This blog is where I have come when I have become exhausted with trying to reason in different forums with those who just plain don’t like me or won’t listen to me or simply hate my views (mostly the case.)
Here’s where my mistake comes in.
Like other times in the past (previously outlined on this blog), sometimes I get attacked. Out of the blue. We’re going along just fine, and I think everything is dandy, and I’m engaging with someone in what I think is a great conversation, and then BAM!!! They slam me with something nasty. At first I get shocked. Then I start to question them. Then I get sad. And then, from deep within me, a volcano starts to erupt…. and BAM!!!! I hit ’em back. This is where the eye for an eye comes in. They dished out their unfair challenge to me, so isn’t it fair for me to dish it right back?
Here’s the thing. It would be, if I could stick with the issue. But I can’t help it… I end up taking it personally, and because I am super perceptive of people, I end up dishing back more truth than anyone needed to hear. Sure, it’s truth. Sure, I can tell they are foaming at the mouth with disgust for either me or what I stand for. Sure THEY can say anything. But when Shalimamma dishes it back? Oh the shock, oh the horror. Complete with one or two friends emailing personally and saying a phrase that I heard in high school from that principal (who I still pray for): “CAN’T YOU JUST BEAR IT SILENTLY???”
I received one email like that yesterday, after I went at it on a debate and flustered the other person unknowingly. A loyal friend said “Can’t you just bear it silently?” Each and every time I have stood up for uncomfortable truth, there has always been one email in my box saying the exact same sentence. Nevermind all the ones that say “You GO girl…” This has gotten my attention… and this morning, I realized that there is truth in that sentence. I would like to thank the well-meaning “choleric (always) loyal friend of the arguer” who has always sent me this type of message. I have learned from this… and I want to share with you what I learned. This leads to lesson #2…
Always and everywhere, we must stand up for the truth, even if it is uncomfortable or people hate it. And by truth, I mean an issue is right or wrong… not a person…
My temptation is to get personal. And while I may be ‘right’ (I didn’t make up that whole thing about life being sacred, and marriage being sacred, and love your neighbor), I am not all-knowing. This is why an eye for an eye doesn’t work. Each and every time I have been attacked and then I strike back personally (you’d think that was fair, right?), I have learned after the fact that the perpetrator was suffering with some secret worry or some secret disaster or some hidden illness. Had I known about these things, I probably WOULD have remained silent and prayed for them. I took their attack as “all is fair in love and war” and figured if they could dish it, they could take it. I was wrong. Think about it. If someone comes at you with violence about whatever issue, what is prompting them? Is it passion for the truth? If it is, they will engage in a respectful dialog and want to learn more. If they are not listening? That’s your clue #1. They are speaking out of their hurt and anguish, that even they may not be aware of.
Lesson #3: what if I am getting personal because of my OWN hurt?
And Lesson #4. Jesus, the only One who was qualified to whistleblow all of my mistakes and sins from the cross, DIDN’T. He said “Forgive them, Father, they know not what they do.” Sure, He did point out the sins of the Pharisees and got REALLY personal. But this brings me to Lesson #5:
If someone is causing scandal and is, or has the capability of, misleading many others, it then becomes appropriate to whistleblow and invite prayers for the individual or group. This could be political leaders, Church leaders who oppose Christ’s teaching and are wolves among sheep, child predators, any kind of corrupted ‘leader’… you get my drift. There are times when I stood by good leaders and didn’t mind pointing out who NOT to follow. I stand by that way of life, and I will continue, if I see many others being duped or harmed by someone.
However, my problem has been in exposing those who simply had a problem with ME, or one or two other people. People with personal brokenness that I may or may not know of.
To the family that I mentioned yesterday, I apologize from the bottom of my heart if I hurt you while you were already hurting about something else. To those I have mentioned before in posts where I got personal, and you weren’t misleading a bunch of others but were just broken like me, I ask for your forgiveness. Yes, you may have hurt me deeply. You may have gotten personal with me, slandering me, dumping me, defriending me (sorry, that actually makes me chuckle about Facebook 😉 )… whatever. But my attempt at “an eye for an eye” was wrong of me, and it certainly was not the high road. I am removing anything on this blog that gets personal where there is not public scandal. While I have forgiven you, I pray that you can forgive me during this Holy Week.
To those I have mentioned that have caused scandal or cause harm on a regular basis to others, I pray for you, but I will not remove my exposition of truth until I know that you have changed your ways, even though most all of my posts are anonymous as far as whom they are about. In those cases, I will NOT bear evil silently, because we are called to stand up for truth, not simply follow the sheeple and not love our neighbor with our indifference.
But as far as personal difficulties? An eye for an eye doesn’t work… because we don’t know what that person is going through. We can’t in most instances. Maybe their grandmother is dying and they yell at you out of the blue. Maybe they can’t conceive and you can and they are suffering and trying not to be envious, but it is eating them up inside, so they become irrational with you. Maybe they are struggling financially and your post bragging about your fancy new car made them cry because they are struggling to put food on the table, and so they just remain silent and don’t talk with you. Maybe, like me, they miscarried a baby quietly and their husband was furloughed, and they are feeling sorry for themselves and struggling with trust in God, as well as fighting the urge to be mad that no one seems to care. Maybe they are going through depression…. who knows. The fact is, we don’t know. And sometimes, they don’t even know.
And so you are right, dear friends who rightly asked about silence. I should remain silent when it comes to personal attacks on someone who may just be misguided or who is simply hurting or who simply disagrees with me, even if they attacked me first. You are right. I should rise above their behavior and love them back. (And I assume, since you tell me to do this, you practice the same virtue as well, right? 😉 )
As far as those who asked me to be silent about evil, well, sorry, but I am disinclined to acquiesce to your request. (Means NO. 😉 )
And for all of us, let us take this Triduum to think about how our Lord never threw our sins in our face, when He has a total right to. He has had mercy on us that we can barely comprehend. My prayer is that we can extend that mercy to those who have hurt us, and to pray for them.
Afterall, and eye for an eye leaves us both blind…