"So what are you going to do today if your friend pinches you at school?” I glanced back in the rear view mirror to see her struggling with the conflict presented to her. Just yesterday she had gotten in trouble at school for pinching back, so we had spent some time talking through our options. “Well, mom, I’m going to try to not pinch him back. My brain knows I should tell him to stop doing that, leave him alone and tell my teacher. But mom, sometimes my fingers just do whatever they want to do.” I stifled a laugh, as I reiterated the best way to handle kindergarten conflict and suggested that she and her brain work hard to try to keep her fingers under control today. “I’ll try hard Mommy. I know I should always do the right thing, even if my friends do the wrong things. But sometimes it’s really hard.” I hear ya, sister! It is hard.
I wish I could tell her that always doing the right thing would get easier to do as she grew up, but the God’s honest truth is that sometimes it just doesn’t. When people wrong us, just like my four-year-old, our brains know how we should react, but sometimes our fingers (or mouths) just seem to have a mind of their own and before we know it, we respond out of emotions and in bad judgement. We may have outgrown the embarrassment of seeing our clips being moved up or down on a behavior chart, but the relational consequences are usually much bigger than just some playground tears or sitting in time out until we cool down.
Why is it so easy for us to hold grudges, withhold forgiveness and act out in bitterness and anger? Maybe, for those moments, we have forgotten what grace feels like. Perhaps for a minute our heart longs to cover up our own imperfections by shining a light on someone else’s mistakes.
Our reactions to someone doing us wrong is such a clear picture of how much of God’s grace we are allowing to flow through us. When words sting our hearts or actions leave us feeling betrayed or broken, we have a choice to make. We can react out of our hurt places and fire back nastiness. Or, we can remember just how much grace God has given us for all the times we act wrongly against others, and we can do the right thing. We can set an example of forgiveness, encouragement, kindness and grace. We can stop the cycle of condemnation, destruction, accusations and unkindness. But we have to make sure our heads and hearts keep our mouths and fingers under control.