In last Sunday’s installment of When Calls the Heart, two would-be friends entered into the boxing ring of offense before realizing that actions are better than reactions. As the saloon grew busier and louder with each night’s festivities, the townspeople reacted by approaching their beloved mayor with their concerns. In a show of good faith, Abigail confronted Lucas Bouchard about the issue. Promising to “keep it down” as business allowed, Abigail took Lucas at his word. When Abigail saw that Lucas did not keep his word, she was quite offended. Entering the saloon, she intended to let loose her emotions on this unsuspecting saloon owner. Lucas’ smug response, however, threw her off. Offended by Lucas’ failure to meet the expectations of keeping one’s word this second time around, Abigail reacted by proposing a new ordinance for the little hamlet: a noise limit after 10pm. Of course, determined not to let the mayor get the best of him, Lucas reacted with an incentive to draw even more customers after the stated time.
How do you react when the other party refuses to engage? When someone offends you, what do you do? Do you plan a counter attack that will one-up the other party, or do you simply defend your own actions? Perhaps it would make more sense to simply choose to act, and not react out of emotion.
“I can’t have someone like you in my life.” Just over a year ago, a friend I valued greatly tossed these words at me before making her dramatic exit from my world. Those words shattered my self-image and caused me to construct a veil between myself and others who would walk into my life over the next 6 months. Not only was I incredibly hurt, I was offended by her words and actions. She questioned my integrity, my motives, and my sincerity. That hurt I harbored opened a door for division and discord between my human and spiritual natures. I wanted revenge. At first, I wanted to know what I did wrong. Then, when that was obviously not a possibility, I wanted this friend to know and understand the amount of hurt she caused. I wanted to see someone hurt her as she had hurt me. My initial response was to react.
One specific definition of react is to “act in opposition.” In my eyes, this trusted friend had now become an opponent. Then, I was blessed with three incredibly wise souls who gave me the wisdom I needed to overcome the offensive words. One suggested that I “continue being me” – that I “do my thing” and let God take control of the outcomes for both of us. Another helped me understand my hurt and process it by putting it in the correct context. The third reminded me to pray for myself to heal and to see God’s plan in the situation…then she reminded me to pray for my friend. Ouch.
The correct context was this: I thought I knew this friend inside and out, so I placed expectations on her that I shouldn’t have. When she fell short, as we all do of others’ standards, the gap seemed like a gaping hole in the relationship I thought we had. Her failure to meet my expectations of true friendship offended me. In response to this gaping hole, instead of reacting with vengeance and a bitter attitude as I wanted to, I needed to act. I needed to exert my energy and force into making the situation better.
We have all heard the trite expression about “killing with kindness.” In many ways, that can be hypocritical. To act in a kind manner when that is not how we feel appears fake and self-serving. Perhaps a better action is to take to our knees and speak words of kindness. When the ones we love do not meet our expectations, maybe we lower those expectations a bit, but we also look for the good in the person and we thank God for it. We petition Him to continue building the good while He works out the bad. Abigail saw the good in Lucas and the potential in his ability to be a valued member of Hope Valley, so she acted on that. She offered a compromise that satisfied both the town’s interests and the interests of the saloon owner.
For me, my first act is to pray. When I do not have a kind word in my head or a sympathetic emotion in my heart, I open to the Truth and I speak those words. While I ask God to give me a heart of forgiveness, I also petition Him to work in the heart of my friend. There are days when that seems impossible, but I squeeze those words out – words of help, and of blessing, and of thankfulness. As they reluctantly fall from my lips, I find my heart able to take on one more day. I get stronger, and wiser, and closer to my Creator. For it is “God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” (Philippians 4:13, emphasis added.)