I knew about a milisecond before it happend that it was a bad idea. I was using an old pair of scissors to pry the staples off the back of a picture when the rusty, dulled point slipped, taking with it a significant chunk of my thumb.
By instinct, I dropped the scissors and picture, and immediately grabbed my throbbing, bleeding thumb with my other hand. I squeezed tight and slammed my eyes shut. I didn't want to look and see the damage. I didn't want to acknowledge that it had even happened. I held my breath and waited for the inevitable rush of pain that always lags a bit behind the initial injury.
It didn't disappoint. My thumb suddenly felt as big as my head. My kids gathered around me, asking what happened and wanting to see the injury. I don't know about you, but when I get hurt--especially this bad--I become like a wounded bobcat. My fangs were out and I roared at everyone to leave me alone! I ran around the room, trying to outrun the pain, ignoring my kids' questions and needs in that moment. I was certain that I'd nearly severed my thumb and too afraid to confirm that fear. I was panicked, stunned, fearful, and in pain. Those are not the emotions of someone willing to handle a crisis in a rational manner.
Later....much, much later...I was able to look back on that scene and realize how closely it relates to how I feel when I am wounded by a relationship, when I have a falling out, or face conflict. I typically react in all the same ways. I:
Do you respond this way as well? When you get hurt or encounter conflict, do you figuratively squeeze your eyes shut and worry about one thing: your wound? Does your main focus become yourself over anyone else, as you try to escape from, anticipate, and alleviate the pain?
I've experienced this also from another perspective. I've watched as others get hurt and limp to a corner to nurse their wounds. They become consumed with their pain and how to make it better, forgetting that others around them have needs and hurts as well. It makes for a very one-sided friendship. As much as it stings, I'm certain I've done this to others.
Suddenly, their whole world revolves around what they're going through and how they feel. Conversations with these people tend to revolve around their situation, rehashing (and rehashing...and rehashing) the ins and outs of it. Suddenly, the give-and-take of friendship becomes solely "take."
What to do?
My initial response wants to be to get angry and call the person out, but that would only make the situation worse.
I think...and I haven't got this all figured out, this relationship/conflict thing...the thing to do is extend grace.
That thing that we want lavished on ourselves, but dole out sparsely to others. Yeah, that.
Calling out a wounded person for being self-absorbed will only add salt to the already gaping, festering wound. No good.
Instead, maybe praying for and over that person and allowing them time to heal is the better choice? I didn't say it's the easier choice.
Chances are (and hopefully so) when that person does heal and comes to us, the relationship won't be damaged or severed because we've drawn a line in the sand. Instead, we may actually hasten their healing with our patience, prayer, and grace.
Here's to living life with copious amounts of grace that build beautiful friendships!