Hebrews 4:13-16, Romans 8:1-2
I had an experience on Saturday afternoon that sent me into shame and condemnation. Let me tell you what happened. As you read the details of the encounter, I want to be clear that I was absolutely in the wrong and am in no way justifying what I did. But in my processing and prayer, Dad has helped me to discover some of my “triggers”, if you will, and maybe a strategy or two to help me combat my incendiary reactions at these times.
My oldest son, Robbie, agreed to pick us and some friends up from the airport on Saturday afternoon. We’re returning from our annual trip to Mexico after an amazing time of relaxation and friendship. It’s really cold at home, and there is lots of snow on the ground, so my husband is on the phone with Robbie trying to direct him to where we are instead of us waiting outside for him. We see him, he pulls up and parks, and the four of us run out with our luggage.
Robbie exits the vehicle to help us load our bags and as he does, a shuttle from a hotel honks at him several times and tells him, not nicely, that he is in the wrong spot. That he should be in passenger pick up. Then, the shuttle pulls in front of him and parks about 20 ft. away.
My husband tells Robbie to get back into the car as he and our friend load the luggage into the back. At this time, a man waiting at the vestibule with about 15 other travelers starts yelling at us, telling us that we’re **sholes for parking there, that we’re selfish and that we don’t care that we’re inconveniencing others. A couple of women joined him in yelling at us. I turn around, stare him dead in the eyes, and flip him the not nice finger. A gentle answer turns away wrath, right? I start yelling back that this is our son’s first time picking us up here and that they’re all **sholes for not being patient. I sarcastically thank them for helping him learn how to navigate the airport, hurl a few more expletives at them, and then get into the car while they continue to yell back.
I snapped y’all. I straight up lost it on a bunch of strangers. Did I mention that I was wearing a Jesus sweatshirt? The rage that I felt at their treatment was instant, reactionary, and immediately regretted.
Why in the world did I allow myself to act that way? This has happened in the past. (see my blog post for another example) Everything is fine and then I have an extreme reaction that is totally outside of my normal self.
The shame and condemnation came into play in several ways. Here’s what the enemy said:
You just can’t learn this lesson. You are no better than you were last year.
You call yourself a Christian? Look at how you just treated those people!
How embarrassing for you to have lost it like that in front of your friends. They think less of you now.
You have damaged your testimony as a teacher and mentor. You suck!
Oooh. That was hard to write, but it’s exactly how I was feeling. Honestly, some of those things are true, like how I treated people poorly, but the enemy mixes the truth up with lies in order to cause shame and condemnation. Luckily, I was exhausted when we returned home, so I fell asleep talking to Dad about this for a bit, and then passed out.
When I woke up, I continued talking to Dad. He told me that He forgives me and does not hold my humanity against me. He also helped me to examine some factors that lead to those responses in me, and here’s what’s great about how He did it. He just showed me some things, but didn’t make me feel like I had to “fix” it, or that now that He has shown me I have to do it perfectly from now on. No, it was more of a gentle identification for my growth, should I choose to partake. And you know what? I choose. He also showed me that while I came to a point of forgiving myself last time, I didn’t know to try to identify triggering thoughts or factors, and that I am now ready to see those. Pretty cool.
He also revealed that I needed to apologize to my friend for putting such a damper on what was a beautiful trip. Good thing I was going to see her at church. Even better is that because we have such a deep, authentic, forgiving, and loving relationship, I knew before I even apologized that she would forgive me immediately. Blessings on blessings, she wasn’t even upset by it and told me that she’s not sure she would have reacted any differently if it was her kid they were yelling at. (I’m pretty sure she was just being kind with that statement, and I’m glad she was).
I then received prayer during the service that highlighted that I needed to forgive myself, and the teaching had a part on repentance that I’m sure Dad put there just for me. :)
Now, here are some of the factors that are triggering to me and a few ideas on how I can handle this next time. Part of what was so upsetting is that it seemed like my brain and my spirit were just bypassed, and if those are bypassed, how can I do better in the future? It’s not like I thought my response out. It was pure reaction.
1. Exhaustion plus crowds of other exhausted and crabby people bypass my ability to respond well.
- With this realization, I can decide in advance that I will not open my mouth, no matter what.
2. Injustice tends to boil my blood T.o me, it seemed unjust that these people were yelling at us. There were no hotel shuttles being blocked by our two minutes of loading up. This doesn’t justify the fact that we were in the wrong place, but these people were not actually being inconvenienced by us. They were just cold, tired, crabby, and wanted to release some of their tension on us. That seemed unjust to me.
- If perceived injustice is coupled with exhaustion, I’m not really sure I know what to do to move myself from reactionary to responsive. Recognizing I have a problem here is the first step, though, and I know that Dad is faithful to bring about my character when I’m aware and submitted.
I listened to a perfectly timed podcast today by Tanya Hale. It was episode 147 called Emotionally Hijacked and it was all about overly emotional responses. Go check it out. She had a few ideas on how to move on from an experience like I had that I’ll share with you here:
1. Recognize it as a hijack. She described hijacking as an out of proportion response, and that is exactly what I experienced. Most people who know me personally know that I am conscientious and intentional in my interactions with people because it is REALLY important to me. But I’m not perfect.
2. Be compassionate with yourself. Tanya explained that humans have reactions like this. Sometimes we get emotionally hijacked because of our past experiences or hurts, but it is important to just get curious about why you responded the way you did so you can grow from it.
3. Be patient. Oh, this one is hard for me in this area of growth because I feel like I “should” have already learned this one by now. But, I clearly haven’t and that is okay because I’m not justifying or excusing my behavior. I fully realized my heart towards those people and my response was wrong. I am not going to beat myself up over this failure, but I am going to use it as a way to receive grace and growth for myself and ultimately for the people that I encounter.
Finally, why do I share this with you? I mean, this story makes me look pretty bad!
I share it because I want you to know that you are not alone in the human experience. I want you to know that even if you are chasing after Jesus with all you’ve got, like I would classify myself, it does not mean that we are going to do things perfectly all the time. I share this with you so that you can know without a doubt that you are loved by Dad not because of what you do (or fail to do), but because of Jesus. We are loved NO MATTER WHAT and it is because of His great love that we come boldly to the throne in our time of need. Nothing is hidden from Jesus, and he empathizes with our weaknesses. We can receive mercy, and healing, and freedom when we come to Him.
I also share it with you so you know to avoid me at the airport. Ha! :)
What about you? Is there a lesson that you seem to encounter time and again? What would it look like for you to receive His grace and mercy in that area? Share with me if you feel like you can, and let’s encourage each other to keep our eyes fixed on Him!
13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven,[f] Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Romans 8: 1-2 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you[a] free from the law of sin and death.