Being asked to travel twenty miles to Lowe’s Home Improvement store for the second time on Saturday didn’t bother me one bit. On the other hand, I seemed to get under the skin of a lady waiting to exit the parking lot.
Just after making the left turn at the red light I noticed a truck and trailer parked in the opposite lane. A man in a car pulling up behind the trailer decided not to wait for me to pass, and promptly took his half out of the middle of the road. I stopped rattling the car windows with my melodious “I love the Maker … and the Maker loves me” just long enough to quickly scoot to the edge of the road. Disaster averted.
Approaching Lowe’s entrance where a lady sat waiting to pull out, I thought to myself, “How polite. She’s going to let me get out of the way before she pulls out behind the trailer.” HOWEVER, as I turned in she threw both hands up in the air, shaking her head as if to say, “Really?” Thankfully, the universal sign for disgust did not take flight or else my day might have taken a nosedive. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out what I had done to make her so miffed at me. Then it hit me. The distraction of nearly being sideswiped made me forget to signal my turn, causing her to wait an extra millisecond. Oh bother!!
I felt my righteous indignation rise as I pictured spinning my car around, following her to her destination, and then marching my little self right up to her saying, “One day we will all be made perfect, but until then you need to learn to put up with your fellow humans.”
And there they were … again.
I thought I had eliminated those three pesky little words that tend to put my arrogance on display like a neon billboard.
“You need to” when used properly can be helpful when teaching someone a skill:
add eggs one at a time,
put the i before e, except after c,
capitalize the first word of each sentence, or
dot your i’s and cross your t’s.
But when “you need to” gets packaged with a pointing finger it becomes damaging:
believe like I do,
change your behavior, or
watch your language.
It’s so much easier to pointedly tell someone else what they need to do, but words are often forgotten, or worse, they may cause bitterness. Sincere instruction has a better chance of being accepted and remembered, but it’s the sharing of life with a person that makes the biggest difference. Paul said it best to the Thessalonians, “Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. For you know we dealt with each of you the way a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God.” (1 Thess.2:8, 11-12, NIV) When I remember to stop short before uttering those three words, I’m reminded I need to pray for wisdom, recall Scripture, and trust the Holy Spirit to help. That’s when my focus shifts from pinpointing what they should do to figuring out how I can show some loving kindness.
For the hand-throwing-head-shakers of the world I have to believe they’ve just had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, and all they really need is a little grace. After all, that’s what I need every day.
“It wasn’t so long ago that we ourselves were stupid and stubborn, dupes of sin, ordered every which way by our glands, going around with a chip on our shoulder, hated and hating back. But when God, our kind and loving Savior God, stepped in, he saved us from all that. It was all his doing; we had nothing to do with it. He gave us a good bath, and we came out of it new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:3-6, The Message)