Sometimes you’re wrong

I like NCIS. Yes, I’m one of those people. I’m not even ashamed to admit it. That being said, I haven’t been able to get into the spin-offs, which is ironic because NCIS is a spin-off (50 points if you can name the show that started it all!).

Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs from NCIS (played by Mark Harmon)

One thing I love about lead character Gibbs is his famous list of rules. Seriously, this man has a rule for everything. There’s a rule for how to deal with lawyers, rules with how to handle emergencies, rules for what to carry, rules for how to treat a man with a cup of coffee. Most of them are really funny, until you get to Rule 51: Sometimes you’re wrong.

I remember when that particular episode aired. I was shocked. Leroy Jethro Gibbs admitting that he could be wrong about something? That pretty much had never happened before.

Ever feel that way? Like you’re always justified? Like you can’t make a wrong move? That you’ve always got a reason for doing what you do or saying what you say?

Trust me, friend. You don’t. And you aren’t.

Even the best of us screw up sometimes. The smartest people still fumble their equations. The wisest teacher still picks the wrong answer. And the most dedicated Christ-follower still puts their foot in their mouth from time to time.

Know why? Because nobody’s perfect. (1 John 1:8-10) We pick the wrong answer. We give the wrong direction. We neglect someone. We hurt someone. We turn someone away when they need help. God can forgive it, so why can’t people?

Well, people are dust, remember? (Psalm 103:14) Nobody has it right. Not even one.

So what do you do? How do you manage in a broken world where the only thing worse than hurting yourself is hurting the people around you?

It comes down to humility. (Colossians 3:12) And believe me, I’m talking to myself right now, because this is something I struggle with in my inner life.

If I hurt someone, I need to be humble enough to ask their forgiveness. If someone has hurt me, I need to be humble enough to tell them about. Why? Because most of the time, the person who hurt you has no idea they did it.

This is the story of my life. People have hurt me over and over again, but I didn’t want to cause conflict. I didn’t want to hurt others in return. So instead of standing up about it, I chose to sit down.

Sitting down is humble, right? Taking it on the chin for someone else is humble, right? Well, it would be if that was actually in my heart. But it wasn’t.

When I chose not deal with the hurt I felt, somewhere in my brain I made a mental check mark in the “I’m better than they are” column. I was a better person because I was willing to suffer the hurt of their words and actions instead of running the risk of hurting them back. I was strong enough to deal with the hurt alone. I didn’t need to have a relationship with them anyway, and if I did need to talk to them, I was strong enough to behave normally around them.

How about we go back and count all the I’s in that paragraph? There’s a lot of them. And that’s your first clue that humility had nothing to do with this reaction.

Whenever someone would hurt me, I wanted to feel superior to them. Refusing to repair the relationship and give them the opportunity to make it right fulfilled that desire. I could hold that hurt over them in silence. They didn’t know, but I did. And because I was being a martyr and refusing to hurt someone, I thought God would honor me.

Isn’t the human brain funny?

I haven’t figured this out yet. I’m learning that my emotions are so tangled up and mixed up and confusing that it’s going to take a long time to sort them out, but this I’m pretty clear on.

When someone hurts me, I need to tell them. Believe it or not, that takes humility, because you have to accept the possibility that you may not be in the right. The actions the other person took against you might have been for your own good, or there might have been other circumstances at work that you didn’t understand. It takes extreme humility to go to someone (especially if it’s someone you love and respect) and tell them that what they said hurt you. And it takes even more humility to accept their response with grace.

But you aren’t responsible for their response. You are only responsible for your own.

If someone hurts you, tell them (Matthew 18:15). But don’t accuse them. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Think the best of them until they give you a reason to believe otherwise. Ask them if they even realized that their actions caused harm. Nine times out of ten, they won’t have any idea.

If you discover that their actions weren’t intentional, be gracious about it. Offer forgiveness. You aren’t doing anyone any favors by holding on to it. If you discover their actions were intentional, the same truth applies.

Sometimes I’m wrong. Sometimes you’re wrong. But that doesn’t give us the right to hold hurt over someone else’s head. Refusing to confront someone about their hurtful actions doesn’t fix a situation. It actually makes it worse, for you and for the person who hurt you.

If you say you love the person who hurt you, show that you love them. Tell them. Give them the chance to make it right. If you don’t, that’s not love. That’s pride. And God doesn’t honor that. (James 4:6)

What we have here is a failure to communicate

I hate confrontation. Even if it’s a situation where I have been wronged, I would rather just struggle through the ramifications instead of calling someone else on what they did to me. I know other folks who, while they don’t like confrontation, don’t have any trouble telling other people that they’ve been hurt. A part of me admires that. To be able to tell someone that they hurt you? Wow.

But I think there should be balance when dealing with hurt feelings between people. If you’re prone to whining or if you get your feelings hurt easily, you should realize that and consider whether or not the person who hurt you actually did it on purpose. And if you’re prone to spouting off or losing your temper, you need to realize that and consider how your words affect the people around you. And if you despise any sort of confrontation (like me) you also need to consider sucking it up and honestly telling people how you feel about things — because if people don’t know how you feel, they won’t know to stop doing the things that hurt you.

Matthew 18:15 talks about how to deal with a believer who has sinned against you. Note that it does say specifically that it’s how to deal with another believer who hurt you. Not a nonbeliever.

 15 “If another believer[d] sins against you,[e] go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back.

This is my difficulty. I don’t speak up. If someone hurts me, I keep quiet about it and either blame myself for it (most often, whether it’s my fault or not) or I develop an unhealthy picture of the person who hurt me. Both responses are silly.

Now I know there are a lot of different applications for this verse, but this morning when I read it I really thought about how people don’t communicate with each other anymore. I’ve seen this happen a lot. Two people have a discussion, and one of them hurts the other person’s feelings. But instead of communicating with each other, they both stay quiet. That’s how resentment starts to build. I don’t know if they think they should be able to read each others’ minds or what. But staying quiet about it doesn’t work.

I am constantly amazed at how poorly people communicate with each other. At home. At work. At church. Whatever you’re doing, you need to communicate. People can’t read your thoughts. People don’t know what you’re thinking, what you’re feeling, and don’t assume that they do.

Most of the time, when we do communicate, we do it wrong. We tell other people that we’ve gotten our feelings hurt in a way that makes the whole situation worse. One thing I have learned is that when you do decide to stand up and tell the offender that you’ve been hurt, you need to do it humbly. Because there’s always a chance that you’ve misunderstood. And most of the time anything that you perceive as a sin against you was unconsciously done. So if you go barging into a confrontation, demanding that the person who hurt you apologize and turn from their wicked ways, how is that going to go over? Not well, I’d wager.

Be humble about it. Make sure they understand you love them and that you still want a relationship with them. Then tell them how they hurt you.

After that, one of two things will happen.

Either they will react with shock, completely uncomprehending that anything they did or said hurt you (this is most often the case). Or, they won’t care. They will realize that what they did or said hurt you and they won’t be willing to change or apologize or admit that they’re wrong — or if they admit they’re wrong, they will still keep doing it anyway.

If the first reaction, you’ve got a friend. Forgive them. Be friends. Communicate with each other. Live happily ever after. Whatever.

If the second reaction? Continue on to verse 16.

In either case, you have to communicate. And communication is difficult. Because you have two (or more) people who think differently and act differently and do everything differently, trying to have a relationship with each other that is mutually beneficial. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking friendship or dating or marriage. Two people communicating is always a risky business, and there’s always a chance that someone is going to get hurt.

But if you don’t communicate, you can’t be friends. If you don’t communicate, you can’t bless each other. If you don’t communicate, you can’t help each other. If you don’t communicate, you’ll never learn. So, as far as I’m concerned, even though communication is difficult and sometimes means you’ll have to confront other people with the things that hurt you, it’s worth the risk.