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!).
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)