January 6, 2011

the first word

"do you ever feel you've become the worst version of yourself? that a pandora's box of all the secret, hateful parts - your arrogance, your spite, your condescension - has sprung open? someone upsets you and instead of smiling and walking away, you zing them? 'hello, it's mr. nasty.' " tom hanks, "you've got mail"

this past summer i received one of the largest slices of humble pie ever to be ordered at a time when i certainly didn't plan on ordering any. a guy friend and i had gotten into a huge disagreement in the spring, and instead of acting with maturity and class, i handled the situation like a 5-year-old little brat. and although we were equally at fault, his trespasses were quickly overshadowed by my downright ugliness. i left school that semester with a spirit of complete disdain, an inflated sense of pride, and the most hideous of hideous frowns.

given it was summer and i wouldn't be seeing my former friend again until the fall, i had a good amount of time to start preparing my plan of attack. i started thinking of exactly what i would say to him the next time i saw him, and you better believe that my carefully cultivated, witty zingers were going to be ready at a moment's notice. the moment we ran into each other, it would be on like donkey kong.

but he beat me to the chase. he completely stole my thunder. because right as i was thinking up more reasons to hate him, he messaged me out of the blue. i took one look at the length of the message and knew i was about to receive the verbal lashing of my life. so with tense shoulders and squinty eyes i began to read...an apology? i did a double take and made sure i was in fact wearing my contacts. but sure enough instead of being blasted with words with the power of rocket launchers, i was being given words like: i'm sorry. i was wrong. you matter to me. your opinion of me matters. i think you're wonderful. i'll do whatever i can to make this right. and in those few moments i was left totally defenseless, completely powerless, and miraculously, speechless.

human nature leads us all to yearn for the final word. the last laugh. the final say. we want to be respected. we want to be missed. we want to be seen as the best thing there ever was and let others know that they are losing if they aren't on our team. but in our quest for self respect we do some of the most disrespectful things. in our hope to salvage our pride we become despicable people that we ourselves wouldn't be proud of. and ironically, we become the worst versions of ourselves so that others will think we're the best.

but who respects someone who doesn't respect them in return? who misses someone who gives them the look of death every time they come into contact? who thinks someone full of anger, pride, and malice could possibly be the best?

in my short lifetime i have developed quite a reputation as the queen of zing. not only have i been able to create some pretty powerful zingers, but i'm able to let the enemy know in a plethora of ways that it was much better to be on my side. but i'm learning that it isn't the final word that is the most powerful. it's the first. the final word brings a temporary satisfaction, but the first word brings a lasting peace.

the final word is harsh, nasty, and threatening. but the first word is kind, alluring, and disarming. it totally cuts through defenses and lowers weapons. after hearing the first word, the other party doesn't have a prayer. the other person is totally shocked, stunned, and silenced. and all that is left to do is to forgive, make up, and move on.

so from now on instead of insisting on having the final word and the last laugh, i'm going to do everything in my power to get that first word. not out of spite or vengeance but for the same reasons i used to use the last word: to be respected, loved, and appreciated by respecting, loving, and appreciating others. because when we talk badly about other people, we say a lot more about ourselves than we do about them. when we hold grudges, we hold ourselves prisoners, and the only thing powerful enough to break our chains is forgiveness. and when we choose to take vengeance into our own hands and try to be the best, we can only unavoidably and inescapably become the worst.

"my dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that GOD desires." james 1:19-20

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