Saturday, October 1, 2011

Social Injustice

What is our reaction when we see a dying puppy on the side of the road?  What do we do when we know that a child is being abused by a parent, peer, or someone else?  In the stands of an athletic game, would we cringe when a player is down on the ground and his opponent just keeps kicking or punching him, while he is defenseless to react?  I think we would all say that we would feel sympathy or even anger, we might cringe, or we might feel that justice needs to be done, but very few of us would actually do something about it.  We claim that we're too busy; we convince ourselves that we didn't really see it or it didn't actually happen; or, we say that we have our own families to take care of; it will be someone else's responsibility to respond to the injustice.

While the harshness of my reality does not even come close to the brutality of the scenarios listed above, the feelings I am experiencing as a victim are very similar.  I have been very harshly and crudely verbally abused for three years now by a person in my life from whom I cannot escape.  To my knowledge, this person is really my only enemy on this earth.  Unless I am just oblivious to people who do not like me, this is the only person who, I believe, really hates me.  I can literally see the hatred burning in her eyes, actions, and attitudes, and I can hear it in her voice.  She is as mean as a snake to anyone with whom she chooses to be that way.  She literally has no care for people's feelings or opinions.  She believes that if someone's actions warrant wrath, then that person deserves whatever wrath she can dish out.  She will continue to unleash her wrath as many times as necessary until her desired outcome is accomplished.  Other than the fact that her wrath, as far as I can tell, is limited to the words she says (in other words, I don't think she would ever physically harm someone), her only goal is that she gets her way.

I am required to work closely with this person on a daily basis, so there is no way out of it.  So, God has placed me in these certain circumstances for a reason.  There are people who are aware of the situation and have yet to come to my defense.  I have met with some of those people and, basically, nothing will be done to rectify the situation.  So, it's just me and God.  When this situation started, my attitude to this woman was very ugly.  I was always short with her when we were forced to talk because I just wanted to end the conversation and get back to my work.  Clearly, that wasn't working.  It didn't matter how short I was, the situation never got better and never went away.  I was only showing her that, as a Christ-follower, I was no different than she was in the way I handled myself when I did not get my way.  So, I started praying for her.  It never fails that when I start praying for someone else who I want to see God "fix," I am the one who gets "fixed."  Consequently, God started changing me.  He started with my attitudes, then my speech, then my actions, and, finally, He led me to a complete change of perspective.  With my attitudes, I started being friendly to her all the time, no matter what.  I don't care if she begins the conversation on a positive or negative note, I always have a smile and a positive word to speak to her.  Then, my positive attitude influenced my speech.  I never say anything harsh to her and I try to never be short with her.  Then, with my actions, I started doing things to lead her toward love (Heb. 10:24).  I would take her a cupcake when I baked them and coupons and recipes that I thought she would be interested in.  She always seemed so surprised and she still does today.  Don't get me wrong, I must prepare myself everyday through the Word and putting on the full armor of God, but He gets me through it.

The best part of the entire situation is that God is shining.  I have sat through at least 4 meetings with this particular woman and my superiors at work and in each meeting, I have received some of the worst verbal bashings in my life.  Through the meetings, I would sit in my chair with one leg dangling over the other, my hands folded in my lap, and a smile on my face.  I had the peace of God inside me and I knew my superiors were behind me, regardless if they stopped the abuse or not.  This woman was planning to throw everything she had at me to publicly humiliate me, but so far, I have remained calm.  When I left those meetings, I would always feel beat down.  I always felt alone, like no one was fighting for me and I knew I had done nothing wrong.  I ended up in the bathroom stall one day praying and crying, but God changed my heart that day.  Since then, nothing that woman has said or done has bothered me.

Today, I see her differently.  I realized that I am not going to change her.  Nothing I do or say or think or pray will change her--only God can do that.  Once I really internalized that, my job was to show her Jesus's love and pour it on her every chance I could.  The results have been amazing.  God has shown up and worked in the lives of the people around me.  The woman is still the same, although she acts surprised now when she can't get the best of me, but more importantly, God has made an impact on the people's lives who watched me in those meetings.  On more than one occasion, they have come up to me and told me how proud, impressed, and amazed they were at my reactions.  They looked up to me.  My superiors were learning from me, what God was doing in and through me.  I now realize that I must be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10) and let Him fight my battles (Exodus 14:14).  Ultimately, if I profess before others to be a Christ-followers, then my attitudes, actions, and speech reflect and point to Him and I want Him to receive all the glory, no matter what my circumstances are (Philippians 1:27).

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