My Super-Sized Reactions are Hurtful
"Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends." Proverbs 17:9 (NIV)
My teenage son took an extended mission trip last summer with a friend. It was the longest we'd been apart. By the time he returned home, my mama's heart was looking forward to spending time alone with him.
I envisioned it all—he would have missed me and be overflowing with stories. We'd lounge on the couch, talking and laughing, going through his photographs.
The night he returned we planned a welcome-home celebration with the family of his travel friend. Holding plates of chips and salsa, munching on tacos and sipping icy soda, the night was wonderful until I overheard my son making plans to work out the next day ... with the same friend he'd just spent two months with.
The wise mama in me, the one who'd worked hard to come to terms with her children wanting to be with their friends more than her sometimes, tried to keep me quiet.
But the hurt mama in me ignored that good advice as something prickly started growing in my heart. Trying to appear jovial but still wanting to make my point, I said, "I might not let you out of my sight ... ha, ha, ha." The potentially awkward moment was laughed off. At least I thought it was.
Later my son kindly asked, "Mom, please don't make a big deal if I want to work out tomorrow, okay?"
Knowing in my head he was right, I promised, "I won't." I gave him a tight squeeze before he headed to bed exhausted.
Collapsing in a chair, weary from an emotionally tiring day, I should have been overflowing with gratefulness. However, the prickly response I'd felt earlier started to grow again.
Based on one comment about working out, I started to build a case. Well, if he'd rather be with his friend, then I'll let him. I won't say anything. In fact, he can just go spend the entire day with his friend. I'm not going to ask him to spend any time with me, that's just what I'll do!
Staring across the room, tears banked like an infinity pool, threatening to overflow. Hurt and indignation swirled for a few moments.
Thankfully the wise mama didn't completely abandon me. Before my wayward thoughts could go further, I recognized the need to get to the bottom of my super-sized response. For heavens sake, my son only wanted to work out. Why was I acting so out of sorts?
Digging into my thoughts and emotions, I realized I was hurt because my son hadn't met my expectations for how his return would be. The simple truth was he hadn't worked out in two months. It had nothing to do with his feelings for me, yet my reaction selfishly made it about me.
Then clear as could be, I "heard" God speak to my heart: Can you love someone who doesn't meet all your expectations?
Pondering this question, I had to acknowledge the many times I don't meet the expectations of others. I'd certainly let God down many times, and I hadn't met my son's expectations that day either. So why was I expecting him to meet mine?
My unfair expectations led me to an unfair interpretation of his motives, which led me to a potentially hurtful reaction. My desire was to love my son; my super-sized reaction would have sent an entirely different message.
Proverbs 17:9 say, "Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends." The only offense that day was made up in my mind. Yet the truth of this verse applied.
The next day ushered in a fresh chance to react in a loving way. Having set aside unrealistic expectations, I was able to enjoy time with my son. And he was able to work out with his friend and come home to a much more gracious mama.
Heavenly Father, thank You for loving me in spite of the fact that I'm not perfect. You continually see the best in me. Help me to see the best in others and stop super-sizing my reactions. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Reflect and Respond:
Do your feelings get hurt often by others? Dig into your thoughts and emotions to determine why.
Can you love those who don't meet all your expectations?
Colossians 3:13, "Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." (NIV)
1 Peter 4:8, "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins." (NIV)
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