By Laurisa Ballew
We are buying a house and are currently smack dab in the middle of the process and sheesh, it takes a lot of organization to provide all of the paperwork and the follow-up details that our mortgage company needs. This week I got the lovely opportunity to obtain our last two months of bank statements from our five accounts.
I really have no idea why we have five accounts. Five seems a little excessive, don’t you think? Anyway, due to a comedy (that wasn’t really funny) of errors, I had to call the bank to have them print off the statements for me to pick up, with only minutes to spare before our mortgage appointment.
I don’t like to operate last minute.
I am not the most organized, but my life doesn’t allow for being ill prepared. I am a working mom, have three young girls (5 and under), one of whom has special needs. Basically, my life takes a lot of planning and prep work so that it can run smoothly. So this last minute run to the bank is outside the norm for me.
Upon arriving at the bank the super sweet teller informed me that the records were not ready yet. In that moment I had a choice. Be annoyed, or be gracious. I tend to believe in the saying “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar” so I chose to be gracious. Turns out the bank’s whole statement system was down and the fax of my records the customer service guy was supposed to have sent over didn’t arrive and this was the reason for the delay.
After a while the fax came through and another woman, who worked at one of the fancy desks at the bank, brought me my records. She paused after she handed them to me, looked me square in the face, placed her hands on my shoulders and said, “ Next time, let's try and be a little more prepared, shall we?”
My stomach dropped to the floor with my jaw.
Of course my natural response (in my head) was, “HOW DARE YOU!!! You have no idea what my life is like, that I was ahead of this, and I have been trying for 24 hours to get these done! I was up four times last night with three children and got up today at 5am to avoid this being last minute. And now I’m here, good attitude and all, patiently waiting for these records!”
However- in a moment that surely was peace from the Lord- I was able to kindly say, “No, I was most definitely prepared. However due to a technical difficulty on my end, and a system outage on the banks end, I am here last minute.” She laughed it off and moved on. I left feeling rattled, but proud of how calmly I handled the encounter.
In life we are going to have unpleasant run-ins with others; whether it is conflicting views, disagreements, or just not meshing with a specific person. However, even in these difficult situations we get to choose how we respond. No one would have blamed me for losing my temper or lashing back at this woman.
And believe me it has taken lots of practice to quiet my natural tendencies in these situations.
We can choose to be peaceful warriors or we can let our emotions get the best of us and respond out of hurt or anger. Notice I did not say peaceful pushover, but peaceful warrior. In no way am I suggesting we should give up our values, self worth, or point of view. There are times when we must confront people, enforce boundaries, or stand up for ourselves and others, but I am suggesting we can do this while still considering the person on the other end of the conversation. It takes practice and self control, but learning to cover even difficult situations in a blanket of peace is truly possible; not easy, but possible.
A key to becoming a peaceful warrior is looking at things from others points of view.
Maybe that lady that yelled at me gets blamed daily by customers for things that are going wrong and so now she copes by getting defensive. I am not excusing her behavior. But, If I look at it from her possible point of view, it is easier to understand her words and actions. And by doing this I instinctually have more compassion for her.
Being aware of others “background noise” is also a great help in conflict.
By “background noise” I mean things we cannot see but are present in their lives. It is not important that we know the details, just that we remember that all of us have this. A broken down car, a stressful job, an ill family member, poor sleep, being hungry, worry, stress, all of these things and millions of others can be background noise. And maybe the person is just mean. But that doesn’t give us the permission to be mean in return. "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35).
We must learn to give each other grace.
Even when grace isn’t extended to us, responding honestly, but with grace and peace, can be so valuable not only for others, but also for our own spirit. We truly could change the impact of our interactions with strangers, friendships, families, and in community, if we simply assumed people were doing the very best they are capable of. This is possible, in both the positive and negative interaction,s if we change our attitudes from looking at how people have failed us, to truly believing people are doing their best.
This isn’t easy. It isn’t instinctual. Yet, it is possible.