By Rae Lynn DeAngelis
The enemy works hard to magnify our character flaws and uses everyday life experience to distort our perception of self and others. Sometimes his corrupt influence has far reaching implications. So far, in fact, that our sense of reality becomes warped and disjointed. The story I’m about to share is one of those times.
At the age of twelve, I experienced something that became a defining moment in my life, a lens through which I now view all of my relationships.
Our next door neighbors had invited their niece and nephew from England to come stay with them for the summer. The girl and I became fast friends (despite our three year age difference) and spent a lot of time together.
Her brother was really cute, and I had a major crush on him. He had a great sense of humor, and his English accent was irresistible. Whenever he was around, I tried my best to get his attention; but who was I kidding? I was twelve, and he was seventeen.
Like many older brothers, he was in the habit of teasing his sister. She seemed to be such a good sport about it, so I sometimes joined-in with his jeering. I thought I was being cool.
Then one day, without warning, my new friend quit hanging out with me. Every time I called, she said she was busy. It became obvious that she didn’t want to be my friend anymore, but I had no idea why.
After several days of trying to figure out what went wrong, I finally decided to go over and ask her, face to face, if I had done something to upset her. She eventually opened up and shared that I had hurt her feelings with my teasing.
“Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” (James 3:5-6)
I was devastated to realize my actions had hurt her and felt absolutely horrible!
I learned a valuable lesson that day. We can hurt others and never fully realize the damage we have done until it’s too late.
“Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.” (Psalm 141:3)
After I apologized for my thoughtless behavior, we began hanging out again, but the relationship was never the same. The tension between us could only be eased with the passing of time and a careful attention to rebuilding and earning her trust. My friend had to go back home to England a couple of weeks later, so we didn’t have the time needed to repair the relationship back to what it needed to be. For many years, I subconsciously grieved the lost opportunity to right my wrong.
The damaged relationship set the tone for my future responses. When someone grew distant, I automatically assumed I had done something wrong. I was unable to discern the difference between someone being distant because I’d done something wrong, and someone being distant because they were tired or having a bad day.
Thankfully, I’ve learned this about myself. Now I just ask the person if I did something to upset them. I would rather know the truth than walk around oblivious to the fact that I’ve hurt them.
Life experience plays a big role in shaping our immediate response to any given situation. Perhaps you can identify your own life-defining moments. We need to ask God to illuminate any of the darker moments of our past with truth and understanding, so the enemy has less power to distort our perception of self and others.
“Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me;” (Psalm 43:3)
Understanding the root cause of our character deficiencies now helps to change us for the better down the road.