The real work of patience and of loving is on you, not the other person. It’s on me, not her, not him. Just to be clear, this isn’t a post about us versus God. It’s about our actions in relation to others’.
“Sandra, pick up the piece of paper right under your chair.”
“I didn’t drop it.”
“It doesn’t matter that you didn’t litter, but you need to pick it up.”
This is a sample conversation I’ve had many a time with some of the kids I teach in what is popularly known as Sunday school. Is it surprising that the attitude of many is “I didn’t cause the mess so why do I have to clean it up?”? It’s a legitimate concern, but not in the kingdom of God. The way of the kingdom is to take responsibility, to help even when we are not the cause of the problem.
Similarly, someone else’s attitude or actions should not dictate my response. I’m responsible for my own emotions and my actions. Like Jesus said, if someone strikes you on the cheek, turn the other.
If someone says something hurtful to me, I don’t have to say something hurtful back. I see kids do that, and it’s so easy to tell them, “Don’t hit back. You don’t have to say those words in response,” but it’s harder to recognize when we’re doing the same thing in our relationships.
God is going to judge us individually. Yes, the other person was wrong, and God is going to require an account from them, but He is going to require an account from us too, because the “other” person’s actions ought not to dictate our own.
We are told in the Bible to rejoice always. That’s not contingent on our circumstances. It’s not contingent upon someone else’s actions or inactions towards us. Is this hard? Very. It’s difficult. But I realize that the more I practice taking responsibility and not depending on another person to act right or do right, the easier it becomes to live it out as my normal.
If you’re tempted to give up, don’t. This walk of faith is meant to be lived in dependence on God- on the Holy Spirit and the grace God gives us. Yes, it’s our responsibility, but we do it all by the grace of God. The grace of God isn’t like fairy dust. It’s a very powerful force. “[We] can do all things through Christ who strengthens [us].” (Philippians 4:13)
So the next time you’re tempted to blame your partner, friend, spouse, or neighbour, remember, you’re it.