I was standing in Starbucks in Southern California waiting for my coffee, and the looks I was getting were downright mean.
I started to wonder . . .
What’s wrong with these people?
Why am I getting such nastiness from complete strangers?
Maybe they hate the Zags? (I was in my favorite red Zags cap.)
Then the barista behind the counter holds out a mask and says to me with a hint of sarcasm, “Here’s a free mask.”
Oh boy, now I get it. Due to a serious lack of caffeine, I’d forgotten to wear my Covid-19 survival gear. Oops. Sorry.
However, despite my honest mistake, the contempt on the faces of my fellow caffeine addicts seemed a bit dramatic and uncalled for. Somebody could have smiled and nicely said, “Did you forget your face ornament today?”
Instead, what I got was contempt, and that always stings.
I remember a time a few years ago when I was on jury duty. During the case I was on, there was an outbreak in the courtroom. A woman yelled at the judge (no bueno) and referred negatively to his honor’s lineage (no muy bien).
The judge didn’t miss a beat. “Ma’am, sit down and be quiet, or you will be held in contempt!”
She didn’t sit down or shut up, so he did hold her in contempt, and she was forcibly removed.
No one likes to be treated with contempt.
Not the judge.
Most of us want to be liked and treated with a measure of honor and respect. We want to be valued for who we are and what we do. No one enjoys being called a “Son of a Hibachi.”
As a leader and pastor, it would be pretty sweet to throw someone in jail when I’m mistreated, but that’s not an option. (I have considered the potential benefits of wearing a black robe, but I doubt that would help.)
So what should you and I do when we’re unfairly treated with scorn, disrespect, and maybe hatred?
My daughter wrote an excellent guest post last week that gave the best answer: love.
However, here are four other things to consider:
1. Listen first.
Honestly, evaluate the stuff that might be true. No one is perfect. Everyone has room to grow. Don’t get so focused on the ridiculous that you miss the real. Even if only 10% is correct, listen and own it.
2. React less.
There are times when it might be best to keep your mouth shut and say nothing. But whatever you do, take a deep breath and count to ten (or maybe a thousand) before you do or say anything. Reacting emotionally generally doesn’t end well.
3. Respond more.
4. Say “thank you.”
There is an incredible benefit in developing an attitude of gratitude. For example, did you know it is impossible to be grateful and grumpy at the same time? Even if you are falsely accused and maligned, you can still say, “Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings.” (Besides, this response always throws people because it’s not what they’re expecting.) There is almost always something you can glean from a contemptuous encounter. Fix your mind there.
I know, words hurt.
Sadly, the general environment in our culture is vicious at times. I fear we have lost the value of practicing kindness and decency toward those we disagree with.
But remember this: you can’t change everybody or everything, but you can change one thing—your heart. So please do.
I promise you won’t regret it.