Two days ago, I was driving an unfamiliar car out of an unfamiliar car park. It was snowy and the windscreen was foggy, but I was being as careful as I knew to be. I saw pedestrians around me but I wasn’t close to knocking anyone down, and didn’t skid.
As I waited for a break in traffic to pull out onto the main road (the one that reaches from Moscow to Paris!), a woman knocked on my window and harshly told me to pay attention when I drive out of there. Through the window, I said I’m sorry. She started walking away, then turned around again and pointed her finger at her head: “Stupid nun!”
I nodded dumbly because I can’t defend myself in Polish, beyond saying “You’re right. I’m sorry.” Her words shook me because I’m not the brightest light on the street, but I’m not used to being called stupid. Which says more about the people around me than about me. But I wasn’t crushed or devastated by her rudeness.
It’s something I’ve heard all my life, but only recently the penny dropped for me, and I see that what someone says about me or does to me reveals more about them than about me. The rude lady on the street. The hurtful words or actions directed at me. Neglect or carelessness that hurt me. None of that means that I deserve those words and actions, that I’m stupid or unworthy of care. It only reveals the perspective and the life experience of the one whose words and actions I receive.
Not that I’m perfect and never fail, and never need to be called to higher things. But no one ever deserves rudeness or abuse or harshness, no matter how imperfect they are.
But it cuts both ways. When I judge/criticize/make a statement about someone else, I’m revealing my own heart more than I am giving an accurate picture of that person. When I call someone unfeeling or impossible or thoughtless, chances are that I’m saying words that describe me.