If your brother sins against you – a rambling

Jesus says to go talk to your brother in private, try and sort it out quietly between you. Don’t go gossiping, venting, sharing with everyone else how this other person has treated you – go talk to this person first of all, try and sort things out.

Not always easy. Definitely not. But that’s not what I want to focus on right now. I want to talk about when you do go and talk to the other person privately, when you do find the courage to confront someone who has done you wrong.

Obviously, it is better if you can do it in a calm and mature and loving way. Speak to someone gently and they’re less likely to go on the defensive. Go in with all guns blazing and you’re likely to get shot down.

But sometimes that’s what happens, sometimes you feel so hurt, that you lash out. You yell. You speak through your pain, and you forget all that you learned in assertiveness classes about how to phrase things in a way that isn’t aggressive but is still stating clearly that you’re not okay with what the other person has done.

This kind of goes with the postscript I added at the end of my recent Vulnerability post:

sometimes people don’t actually say “I’m hurt by what you said”, instead they react in a way that may seem aggressive. May God give me the wisdom to see that, and the grace to respond with love.

because if I don’t find the grace to respond with love, we can go on forever in this endless cycle of mutual hurt. If your brother sins against you, go and talk to him… but what if your brother sins against you in the way he says it when he comes to talk to you about your own sin against him?

We can get so angry about how this person has hurt us, we can get blinded to why. We can forget that the reason they were so angry in the first place is, very possibly, our fault.

Sometimes, of course, it may not be our fault – it could be that they’re hurt by something we’ve done but we haven’t done anything wrong, so we just need to acknowledge their hurt. It’s entirely possible to tread on someone’s foot by accident and squash their toe really badly. If I tread on someone’s toe and in their pain they yell at me and call me names, I hope I’ll have the grace to ignore the name-calling and just recognise their pain and say sorry for treading on their toe.

I remember something that happened when I was a kid, where my dad reacted not to the content of what I was expressing but to how I was expressing it. It has stayed in my mind all these years, and I feel the message I got was: I don’t care about you enough to listen to your pain. What happened? My parents had gone somewhere and left me alone with my sister, who was old enough to look after me, but she was also old enough to have long fingernails, which she found it amusing to use on her little sister. She also found it amusing to pull my hair. When my parents got back, they asked me how it went and I answered with an expression I’d picked up at school. It expressed my feelings perfectly. But my dad’s reaction was to tell me never to use that sort of language in his house. And that was that. Nobody asking: but what was so awful about staying at home with your sister? Nobody caring enough to notice the feelings I was trying to express, to ask: why were you feeling so bad that you felt the need to use this phrase?

I try not to do that to people. I can’t say I always manage, but I do try not to let people’s mode of expression get in the way of me hearing their pain and heart ache.

But I think I’ve meandered enough… It’s that time of night, when my thoughts tend to get rather rambly. So was there a point here? I think it was something like this: if someone comes along and yells at me for stepping on their toe, may I have the grace to notice their toe is hurting and to say sorry – not to get so blinded by the fact that they’re yelling at me.