If I'm showing this to you, someone has probably been mean to you today. The reason I'm writing this is that someone was really mean to me today. I tried to turn it into a teachable moment, but you're still pretty young and you were definitely disinterested. So, I'm going to try to organize my thoughts for the day when someone has hurt your heart and you're old enough for us to have this conversation.
Today I made a mistake. It wasn't a big mistake, in fact it was a tiny one. No one was hurt, no one was even inconvenienced. But an angry person was apparently really tired of a lot of other people making the same mistake and so he was nasty and ugly and yelled at me for awhile. He probably had other stuff going on, too. I wouldn't know. I imagine he thought yelling at me would make him feel better. But, I'm guessing it really didn't. There are some things I want you to understand if someone is ever mean to you, but also for when that moment comes that you really want to be mean to someone else.
1. Bad stuff happens. It just does. It's not fair, but it's how this world works. When you see the bad in people you'll be tempted to think they're all bad, but it's not true. Once I read you a story about Pickles the Cat. And the kind lady told the fireman that Pickles wasn't a bad cat, and he wasn't a good cat, he was a mixed up cat. Baby, we're all mixed up people. We have bad with the good. We've just got to keep trying to be good as much as we can and bad as little as possible. We live in a mixed up world. Mean stuff happens just like sickness happens and death happens and natural disasters happen. My understanding is that God made this world with good and bad things on purpose. This isn't heaven; it's not meant to be like heaven. We can't keep bad things from hurting us and that really sucks, but believe it or not, when we hurt God hurts too. He hurts because he loves us a whole lot so he hates it when we're suffering. Even though he made it to work this way. He knows that bad things help us become better people. God wants us to have to exercise the muscles of faith and grace and forgiveness and get strong. If we lived in some perfect utopia those muscles would never get used. Eventually we'd be like the blob people in Wall-E that can't even walk anymore. I'm not sure how it works exactly, but I think that in order for Heaven to be a heaven, we've all got to learn how to be loving and patient and forgiving so that we don't ruin it for everyone else when we get there.
2. Mean people suck. But, do you know why people are mean? There's a few reasons. First, people are born mixed up. You don't have to teach a baby to scream in fury, but you do have to teach them to share. The sweetest babies will slap and bite with the best of them until they're taught not to. I certainly didn't have to teach you guys how to fight each other and you're quite proficient. You guys can get your scrap on like crazy. We come programmed with some nasty. Perhaps it was necessary to ensure survival of the species on this Earth. We will always have impulses and emotions that make us want to do mean things and mean things are easy to do. On the other hand, we have to exercise those "be kind when you don't feel like it" muscles and exercise is work. Don't worry, just like exercise it gets easier and more enjoyable with practice.
The second reason is when you're angry or sad, being mean can feel really good. In fact it can feel great for a quick minute. But the huge major problem is after that delicious moment has passed you're going feel bad and guilty a lot longer than it ever felt good. Some people enjoy that short lived good feeling so much that they're willing to deal with the bad feelings later. They think it will work to ignore them, but that only works for a while. Often they're not conscious that's the choice they're making. But always be conscious, baby. Always listen to that soft quiet voice that tells you the truth.
Lastly, there are things that make being kind even harder and more work than normal. Do you remember how you felt today right after that person was mean to you? You probably wanted to scream and punch their face in. Today after that man was mean to me it took all that I had not to scream at him and make an ugly gesture and throw trash in his front yard. Oh, it was so tempting. I really wanted to throw a big fit. The only reason I was able to resist is that I tried really hard to be a good person even though I didn't feel like it. I had to remember that I need to extend grace to others not because they deserve it, but because God extends grace to me even when I don't deserve it. I want you to know that if you didn't do anything like that when that person was mean to you today, I am very proud of you. You are so strong already. If you gave into the seductive pull of fury, then I just want you to keep exercising. Know that if you can hold on and use that strength for just a little while that burning desire to be ugly will go away. And, that burn is building muscle. Soul muscle that you can be really proud of.
3. You will make mistakes. You can't always help it, you're human and you were purposefully made to be full of mistakes so that you could learn from them. The important thing is to a) realize it's a mistake, b) apologize and c) try to never make that same mistake again. Remember that people are allowed to be angry and sad about your mistake if you've hurt them. Apologies are important but they don't fix the damage. If you dropped a plate and broke it but apologized, would the plate still be broken? Even if you glue it back together it will never be the same. Just do the best you can and remember every day is a new chance to get a little closer to the potential God sees in you. Also know that a person's hurt feelings do not make it okay for them to hurt you back on purpose. Just like if anyone hurts you it is not okay for you to hurt them back on purpose unless you are forced to in order to defend yourself. In fact, if your goal is for that person to not hurt you like that again it is much more effective to let your anger go first and then tell them how they've hurt you. Notice I said more effective, not easier. Mean is the easy way out. If they care about you it will make them want to treat you better next time. If they don't try to treat you better, you need to accept that they may not care about you as much as they should. Even when they're trying they probably won't get it right for awhile, but as long as they keep trying you know they still care. It's even easier for people to be mean to strangers because there usually fewer consequences. But remember, all people are God's children and He and I both want you to treat them with respect for at least that fact alone. Also consider that if you have consequences to your conscience after being ugly to a stranger, you won't have the luxury of apology.
4. Sometimes people will be sorry, but a lot of times they won't be. Sometimes those mixed up good/bad people just refuse to let themselves realize they've made a mistake. Because if they admitted it to themselves, then they would have to feel guilty. No one likes to feel guilty. They will bend over backwards to justify their bad behavior. You can't convince them otherwise, it just doesn't work. No person can change another person, we can only change ourselves. Not only that, but there are some people who have had so many painful things happen to them in their life they feel like it has made them bad all the way through. These particular people were not as lucky as you and have had more than their share of bad things ever since they were a baby. A lot of the time these people stop even trying to be kind; they get too lost in all the bad. The only thing that makes them feel better is to be mean to others to try and make it feel more fair that life has been cruel to them. Sometimes these people work really hard to believe that they like the bad. But the truth is, it never makes them feel better. They are just so lost they can't see another way anymore and they've stopped looking. When you're being mad at one of these people I want you to remember to be sad for them, too.
5. When someone hurts your heart it hurts bad. I know. But there is one way to make it better. We're talking about the worst kind of hurt there is. Also, one moment of someone being kind doesn't affect you as strongly as one moment of someone being ugly. It's not fair, but it's like every good thing that happens to you is like a cup of water being poured into a bucket, but when you're hurt it's like someone kicked that bucket over. That's just the way it works. And the more you care about someone, the easier it is for them to kick your bucket all the way over. Conversely, the more someone cares about you the more power you have to hurt them. Remember this and be good and sweet and kind a whole lot more than you are mean. I won't tell you I expect you to never be mean, because no one can do that. Sometimes a little mean is going to slip out. It's what you do next that really matters. Maybe that's what has just happened to you. Perhaps someone you trusted has done this to you today. You flex your grace muscles until the fury has passed until you've successfully managed to move beyond the fist clenching moment where all you can think about is the meaner things you can do in retaliation. You can do it, you are more than your anger. When it has subsided, you'll be left with the sadness.
Since we're having this talk, you might feel right now like someone has kicked you in the chest. There's only one way for that hurt to start feeling better and it's a bit counter intuitive. You have to forgive them. I know, it sounds crazy. They don't deserve it! They're not even sorry! It doesn't matter. You're not doing it for them. The cold hard truth is that the person who inflicted this wound has probably forgotten all about it. If they haven't forgotten, they probably still don't care that you're hurting. We flawed humans can be so egocentric! As a result, you're the one struggling to carry the weight of the insult. You're the one weighed down by the pain. The key to moving on is letting go. Forgiveness is tough, but it's worth it. You're worth it. A life dominated by anger is no way to live. And remember the pay it forward aspect. God has forgiven all your transgressions. I bet there are some you're not sorry for. There's someone out there you've hurt and you don't even realize you did it. You didn't have to work to earn the right to be forgiven of every sin. Someone did all the work, but it wasn't you, you get to enjoy that benefit free of charge. You don't forgive others because they're deserving of it. You forgive others because you were forgiven. You do it because God deserves it, and he loves that person as much as he loves you. He sees the good in them just like he sees the good in you, and every little speck of good is precious to him. I always tell you I love you no matter what. You could become a serial killer and I wouldn't be happy about it, but you'd still be my sweet child. God's love is like that for each one of his mixed up humans, but even bigger.
"How do you forgive?" you might ask. Well, it's tough and you're going to have to work at it. You may have to give the situation a little space to breathe while you can adjust your perspective. Since you were born, sometimes it helps me to picture the people I'm trying to forgive as the innocent child they once were. It may help to volunteer at a homeless shelter or an oncology ward to make your problems seem smaller. It will definitely help to spend time in quite prayer and meditation talking to God and asking him to help you figure it out. Once I simply wrote over and over in a journal "I forgive (them)" and it got me one step closer. Depending on how hurt and angry you are, it may take a continued effort where you actively work on it. It makes sense, doesn't it? Don't most important things require that? Beware of anything that seems like it would be a quick fix. The work is worth it, after all you're regaining your freedom of spirit.
I hope this talk has helped. It has helped me to write it. But, I will still mess up and hurt your feelings sometimes and I hope you are always able to forgive me. Remember that the closer you feel to God, the easier earthly hurts are to weather. The more you work to know him, the more you will feel his support. In fact, I think part of the secret to true happiness is this: We were put on this Earth with a God-sized hole in our heart that leaves us feeling lacking. Many people try to fill that hole with earthly things to find happiness; possessions, substances, experiences, etc. But just like that infant toy you had called a shape sorter, the only thing that fits right in that hole, and makes you whole, is God. And like all hard things that are worth it, if you keep actively working on it, you will get there.