Most of us "deal with" people in our jobs. Some of us more openly - as in the arena of sales, customer assistance, and cashiering. Others of us have a more "behind the scenes" approach to dealing with people - as in controlling the air space from a flight control tower. As we are well aware, not ALL people are easy to deal with. Sometimes it takes every ounce of our being to just not choke them! This was the case yesterday as I stopped at a local retailer to make a quick purchase on my way home. There in line as I entered the store were two people - one husband, looking rather disengaged and gazing off into the distance as his wife, obviously was "engaged" in a rather heated discussion with the clerk. She was miffed about not being able to use expired "promotion dollars" she had "earned" when making a previous purchase from this retailer. Now, don't get me wrong, I would LOVE to be able to use all my coupons, gift cards, and special offers at any time of the year rather than being limited to the one weekend they invite me back to shop! But...the nature of the conversation was obvious - someone was getting their fill of an angry outburst!
If anyone boasts, “I love God,” and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won’t love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can’t see? The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to love both. (I John 4:20-21 The Message)
The events which unfolded made me think about this passage. Soon, without ever having to send up an "SOS", the sales clerk was surrounded by another cashier, then another, until all the sales people from that end of the store seemed to be either in the immediate "space" of this event, or nearby. I was witnessing what could have turned into what some might call a "lady going postal" on a the clerk. As she spoke, her tone got more anger-filled. As she gestured, they got bigger and more dramatic. Soon, the words she chose were neither honoring, nor were they welcomed. In fact, I almost wanted to skip getting my desired purchase because I knew I'd have to eventually stand in the line!
What this lady effectively managed to do was to clear out the entire end of the store - simply by her poor behavior. Now, don't get me wrong, I still shopped. In fact, I refused to allow her behavior to influence my purpose for being there! As I came through the cashier just a little while later, I heard the discussion between the many cashiers involved in this altercation and the manager of the store. He simply stated, "Sometimes we will never make the customer happy - - - all we can do is try." Oh, so true! Sometimes, no matter how much we extend ourselves, we just won't "please" people!
I learned a few lessons from the cashier's responses to this rather difficult customer:
* We have a responsibility to reflect the love of Christ in our lives - even when it is hard. Not every person "deserves" our love, but every person "needs" our love. If anyone actually believes it is EASY to love the one behaving badly, you have probably never really affected by much negative behavior! John reminds us - we cannot say we love God and not love people in turn! People - deserving or not - need God's love. Thank goodness he loved me, even when I had not an ounce of goodness in me which deserved his love! Now, it is my responsibility to love others as he has loved me!
* We will always have people in our "space" which are not always our choice. At times, their very presence in our lives may not be welcomed! We did nothing to encourage their presence, but somehow they are there - what we do in those moments may be their only impression of the love of God they will see. This is a sobering thought, is it not?
* We have a model of behavior which we can always turn to when our "space" fills with those who challenge us to love and love again without much return of any form of "love" in return. My aunt posted a comment yesterday which simply said, "Wisdom too often is only acquired by doing the wrong thing too many times." Now, I don't know if this quote was original to my aunt, (I think it was), but it is so very true. In dealing with others, we often make the same mistakes - until one day we get it right! Our responses may not be right the first time, or the second, but eventually - the love of God will win out!
* We all have the potential of being the one somebody else has in "their" space! We don't always behave as we should - sometimes without even trying, we have crossed boundaries in another's "space". I guess it is important to realize love is a two-way street. We extend love (grace in action) when someone is in OUR space - we receive love (grace in action) when we are the someone in another person's space!
Just some thoughts on loving when the loving is not easy!