A Meaningful Lesson in a ‘Not-So-Mo’ Moment
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger (Proverbs 15:1–NIV)”
The other afternoon, I had what I’d call a “Not-So-Mo” moment.
There I was, having a really good day, not feeling particularly snarky or irritable, nor easily miffed.
It had been a great day, in fact. I’d had lunch with my sweet niece-in-love Haley who, though currently living in Wyoming, is visiting her homeplace here in North Carolina with her three children. We’d enjoyed a visit over buttery grilled cheese sandwiches while children laughed and danced around the table, puppy Prancer at our feet.
I’d also had sweet Lil’ Lila that day, and she’d been in a very happy mood–babbling and scooting around the living room on her bottom, a new trick that came while we were out West, along with her first cut tooth.
It had been, in every respect, an above average day, so who would’ve thought I’d snap? But between our home and the interstate, just around a curve in the road, I did. Well, sort of–though I’m grappling with whether or not I’d been justified. I think that’s what I’m still trying to figure out.
En route to Allie’s orthodontist appointment, Lila in tow, we’d listened to music. Though I don’t recall what song was playing, it would have been a perfect time for Nora Jones’ “Humble Me” because, without warning, another car came barreling around the bend on my side of the road, seemingly in no real hurry to return to her own lane. So I swerved just enough, holding my breath, fearing the mirror on my car might get knocked clean off. (It wouldn’t be the first time.)
That was it. I’d had it. The straw that broke the camel’s back forced us to a screeching halt, having experienced that jaw clenching, gut-gripping punch one too many times. Knuckles white, I peered into my rearview mirror. There, approximately the length of two basketball courts behind me, I could see that the other driver, too, had slowed and was determining whether to fully stop. I flew in reverse and rolled down my window.
A woman stared at me out hers. “Yes?” she asked, though I knew she knew why I’d come barreling backwards.
How dare her be so coy, I thought, but I heard myself say, “I’m sick and tired of nearly being knocked off the road.” Heat rose in my cheeks.
The woman stared speechless. “I… um…”
“You were on my side around that curve. You know that, right?” I felt indignation well up from within.
“Well, you weren’t exactly tight on yours either,” she added, a bit too snidely.
“Really? I doubt that.” I fumed but, just then, felt a nudge I’ve come to recognize as the One who keeps me, more often than I care to admit, from making grave mistakes. “But if so, I’m… I’m sorry. Let’s be friendly about this.” Pausing, “Please, let’s at least commit to being more careful. I’ve been hit once and nearly hit too many times for my liking. I don’t like feeling afraid when I drive this country road, especially with kids in the car.”
“Well, I know this here road, m’am,” the woman stated, perhaps still peeved that I’d called her to account.
I thought to myself, So what? What does that matter anyway? You still need to be careful going around blind curves. But instead, “Again, let’s just agree to be more careful.” Though I really wanted to remark with anger, I concluded with a question. “What’s your name?”
Defensively, “Brandy. What’s yours?”
“Maureen.” I took a deep breath. After a moment’s pause, “Well okay then, let’s be safe. Have a good day.”
And that was that. One song had ended and a new one had begun –the lyrics to Lauren Daigle’s “Salt and Light” ironically too close for comfort. I felt my heart edge away. After all, I wanted to bask a bit longer in my steamy anger, thank you very much.
But the Holy Spirit–my Gentle Guide–wouldn’t hear of it.
Forgive as you’ve been forgiven.
Not quite ready to release my self-righteousness, I dialed my husband’s number, hoping to rally support. Sharing the incident with him on speakerphone, I felt my face flush again. “Can you believe it?” I huffed.
Allie, too, got in on the action. “Yeah, Dad—Mom was like, ‘Write down her driver’s license.’ I think I got a picture of it on my iPad.” Looking at me for approval, “Momma wasn’t on that lady’s side. She’s a liar, only wanting to protect herself.”
And again, I heard the Spirit’s voice.
Forgive as you’ve been forgiven.
After we hung up, my breath emptied from my chest in a long, low sigh. “Well, Allie Girl, it may take me awhile to recover from that close call.” Pausing, I considered my next words. “But maybe that woman really did think I was on her side. It’s important to know that, just because someone says something that isn’t accurate, that doesn’t necessarily make them a liar. We don’t really know her, I guess.” I couldn’t believe I was defending the woman, but I was convicted. I’d not set a very good example. “I’m sorry for how angry I became. Maybe it was because I had you in the car…”
“And Lila,” Allie interrupted.
“Yes. And Lila.”
The next morning I opened a book I’ve been working through. Written by my friend Lori Stanley Roeleveld, The Art of Hard Conversations is a wonderful tool that enables readers to face tough conversations with more confidence, offering biblical truth as the foundation for difficult discussions.
I’m not what one might call brazen when it comes to confrontation, especially with people I don’t know very well. (That doesn’t mean I don’t battle with bad thoughts, imagining what I’d like to say!) I don’t enjoy conflict, and I’m a slow processor–something Bill and I have had to work through in our 32-years of marriage.
Early on, when we’d have a disagreement, he’d press in lovingly, longing for a solution, but me? I’d flee. Because I was unsure of what to say or of even how I honestly felt about the situation at first, my tendency was to run away. This fed in to Bill’s fear of being abandoned and drove a deeper wedge between us. By seeking wise counsel, we were able to discover better how we each ticked, and, over time, we’ve found ways to resolve conflict more peacefully, as well as more quickly.
All this to say, I’m still growing in my confidence when it comes to properly dealing with conflict with others outside my family. To never face disagreements isn’t healthy, but to deal with them inappropriately can further perpetuate problems. Mostly, without kindness and a gentle word, that which turns away wrath rather than stirring up anger (Prov. 15:1), ones improper responses–perhaps fueled by pride or rage–are a poor reflection of the One who lives in and shines through those who call Jesus their Savior.
We’ve been called to be salt and light (Matt. 5:13-16). As I read Lori’s words that morning, I was further convicted of my behavior toward this woman, Brandy, the other day. My reaction was the result of several close-calls and even a few minor accidents in the past, but that is no excuse. I responded in anger, and even as I write, I feel the overwhelming urge to find a way to apologize to the woman who was likely also shaken by the incident.
I’m prayerfully asking God to give me another opportunity to meet her, to apologize for how I responded, and to part, this time, as friends–with a chance to share the Reason for my conviction, even if justified in having first been afraid.
Perhaps sharing Jesus with her will be a bit uncomfortable, but, as Lori says in her book–
“Hard conversations free us to either work toward resolution or to walk away without regret”
(The Art of Hard Conversations, p. 22).
Won’t you join me in asking for this? I’d greatly appreciate it, and I promise to keep you posted.
In the meantime, I’ll keep reading Lori Roeleveld’s book–learning the art of having meaningful, even though sometimes difficult, conversations.
What’s been a difficult conversation for you lately? Perhaps you’re preparing for one. Share how I can also pray for you, and your name will be entered into a drawing to win a copy of Lori’s book The Art of Hard Conversations. (Winner announced on August 1st.)
Dear Jesus, You are gentle and kind. Though there were times to speak forcefully to the storm or with righteous anger to those dishonoring Your House, You mostly spoke with kindness, Your words seasoned with love. Help me be salt and light. Yes, help me be like You. Amen.