Empathy

A Lesson in Compassion (and Dealing with Difficult People)


A Lesson in Compassion


Her words made me so angry I couldn’t see straight. (For the sake of this article, let’s call this person Leigh Ann.) I wanted to return Leigh Ann’s unkind words and make her hurt.  It seemed like every time I saw her, she would make harsh comments about my weight or appearance, lack of abilities in the kitchen, or accuse me of doing something I didn’t do.

I’d like to think that I’m mature enough to let stuff like immature taunts roll off my back, but I’m not. The woman in question attended the same church as I did.

One afternoon after services, Annie left, and I promptly started crying. “Why is she so mean?” I asked my Auntie. “What did I ever do to her?”  

My Auntie got me a cup of coffee and we sat down in the fellowship hall and she asked me:

“Did you know Leigh Ann didn’t have an opportunity to finish schooling because she had a baby? Did you know she was raised by folks who treated her poorly?”  

I didn’t know. Auntie went on to explain that Leigh Ann’s had to be tough and all her life as a way to cope. One of her six children died in a car accident, and she often had to look after any number of her dozen grandchildren.

Then, Auntie said,

“Now imagine what she sees when she looks at you. You’ve completed college and chose a career. She never had the same choices as you.  She’s taken care of others her whole life – parents, siblings, husband, children, and grandchildren.  She’s worked every single day cooking, cleaning, and doing laundry to keep folks around her clothed, clean, and fed – usually without being thanked!”

My Auntie was right, of course.  Leigh Ann was rough around the edges, but she was deeply devoted to her family and a hard worker. She didn’t have an opportunity to learn “soft skills.” What about her comments about my weight? Leigh Ann knew I was recovering from a long illness and, perhaps, it was her backhanded way of showing concern.

Finally Auntie told me,

“Give Leigh Ann some grace. She’s still new to really knowing Christ.”  

When we are saved, a beautiful journey begins. The Holy Spirit transforms us from the inside out, but you can’t realistically expect the Fruit (Galatians 5:22-23) to manifest immediately. I needed to show Leigh Ann kindness and gentleness; since she started attending church, maybe this was the first time in her life folks were actually kind to her.

I walked away from the table feeling better and knowing that I needed to do:

  1. Not respond to Leigh Ann with anger, but with gentleness (Proverbs 15:1)
  2. Repay an insult with a blessing (1 Peter 3:9)
  3. Treat Leigh Ann the way I want to be treated (Mark 12:31) – especially since I can be cranky at times!
  4. Understanding that this is an opportunity for me to grow in faith and developing my own Spiritual Fruit (1 Corinthians 14:20).

My encounters with Leigh Ann continue to be rough, but I believe with time she will come around. I am also grateful for the growth I’ve seen in my own life and the wisdom my Auntie shared with me.


 

Comments, curses, and blessings welcome!

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