Should You Take This Personally?

Proof of Children

I’ve already been at it awhile, asking to see ID cards. These moms, dads, and grandparents are waiting in line to get free Christmas gifts to give their kids. We need proof they are indeed the caregivers.

Almost everyone is gracious with our requests. They pull out Medicaid cards for their children or birth certificates or social security cards.

But occasionally someone argues with us. They say they didn’t know the requirements or they don’t have the cards with them or they can’t show us anything until next week.

We allow exceptions with permission; we give grace when we can.

The next young woman in line steps up to me. I get a bad feeling.

Are You Really Sorry?

I notice her stance before I hear her words. She is weaving back and forth, unsteady on her feet.

I ask for her children’s ID. She says she doesn’t have anything. I ask if she can come back Monday with proof. We’re giving away gifts then, too.

But she is furious with me. She says the cards are in storage. She doesn’t have the money to get them out.

I tell her I’m sorry, but we need to see some kind of paperwork.

I’m not ready for her reply.

She explodes: “Don’t tell me you’re sorry! You’re NOT sorry!”

I’m shocked. Instinctively, I say it again, “I really AM sorry….”

But I get no further because she’s screaming at me again. “I don’t want to hear that crap from you that you’re sorry! I know you don’t mean it!!!”

And I almost say it again. Because really I am sorry. I feel bad we can’t help her.

But I pull back. It won’t help to repeat it. She’s not hearing. And likely it would make things even worse.

I say nothing. I watch as she quickly staggers away from the crowd.

Feel Bad for Who?

I am stunned.

The people who had been near her in line tell me she was high. They say they feel bad for her children.

I feel bad for her children, too. Wherever they are. Somewhere safe, I pray. With someone safe.

But I also feel bad for me. I was just trying to help. I didn’t deserve that treatment.

The church lady in me rares up. I’d like to tell the woman that I don’t have to be here at all. I’m not getting paid. It’s freezing cold. I’m sacrificing my time and energy for people like her that I don’t even know.

She was ugly to me. Now I’m being ugly to her, if only in my mind.

Neither of us are right. We both are guilty.

I finally bounce back from my stupor, my anger, my offendedness. I feel less sorry for me. And more badly for her.

Because her attitude wasn’t about me.

I don’t need to take it personally.

Designed for More

Whoever I just saw, this wasn’t her true self.

In her original design, she was called forth to be loved, to have purpose, to live a life of value. Like each of us are.

But along the way, bad things must have happened. Then more bad things. And more.

And now here she is, not living out who she was made to be.

We all make wrong turns in life. Sometimes from our ignorance. Sometimes from our own willfulness. And sometimes because we’re knocked sideways so often that we lose sight of the path altogether.

I repent of my bad attitude. I pray for more compassion. I pray this young woman will find her way again. For herself. For her kids.

And I even pray for the people she randomly insults along the way. . . who, for the record, should not take it personally, even though we sometimes do.

But instead, we should take it prayerfully.

Sometimes I do, but not often enough, and not always as my first instinct.

Take This Personally

The night wears on. The line only continues to grow.

We finally have to call it, to issue rain checks for those who won’t reach the door tonight. They receive numbers to come back Saturday morning as first priorities.

As I start walking to my car, I see a smiling face look at me. It’s another woman who had previously been in line, a small woman with a child almost as tall as her.

She stops me to say thank you. She tells me she appreciates the smile on my face. She wants me to have a Merry Christmas. What a welcome contrast to the first woman.

The church lady in me again rises up. I want this to be about me, about my goodness, about my sacrifice.

But again, it’s not about me.

I can’t take this personally either.

If I didn’t earn the earlier criticism, I can’t take credit for this current praise.

Because neither is about me. Not really. It’s about life, about love, about heartaches and joys. About ups and downs and plenty and lack.

Ultimately, it’s about God.

  • His mission for justice.
  • His implanting of love.
  • His invitation to light up the world through the humility of his Son.

We’re all in the same human family, fathered by the same divine being.

And we all need his mercy equally. Some for addictions. Some for pride. Everybody for something.

The gift of grace. I need all God has to offer. I have no ID card to prove I qualify for it. . . Except this: God calls me his child.

I shouldn’t take everything personally. Except grace.

I can take grace very personally.

* * *

Some things we should take personally. Like this.

And some things we should not. Like this.

How do you decide? Please share in the comments.

15 thoughts on “Should You Take This Personally?

  1. Susan @ My Place to Yours

    Oh, Lisa, THIS is real—and raw—and beautifully honest. That church lady has a very ugly, prideful side, doesn’t she? I know … because I am her, too. I am praying with you for that young woman and the many, many like her who got off track—or never got on in the first place. Generational poverty, addiction, hatred are so real and affect our global family more than we’re willing to admit. Thank you for the sacrifice you made to be there on that cold day at Christmastime to intersect with your neighbors, to love them, to share your smiles—and to receive whatever they had to give back. The smiles returned you will treasure; the anger will come to mind perhaps when she most needs your prayers. You may never see her again, but keep praying. Only God knows who else may intersect with her life and be in a position to help her get on track. Let’s pray for them, too.

    Merry Christmas to you and yours during this holy season, and may God’s richest blessings of hope, grace (offered and accepted), and peace be yours in the coming year.

  2. Martha J Orlando

    It is all to easy to take things, bad and good, so personally, Lisa. I know my initial reaction to the situation would have been the same as yours, if I’m honest with myself. May we all remember, no matter what happens, that God’s grace is sufficient for us, and we should make every effort to extend His grace to others.
    Blessings, and Merry Christmas!

  3. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    Merry Christmas to you and yours, Lisa! And a Happy New Year, too!

    You can’t control that which they say,
    but only your choice to react;
    don’t let emotion have its way,
    for in this life you can’t redact.
    Stand, and let the harsh words pass;
    don’t pretend they don’t cause pain.
    Let them be a looking glass
    from which is quickly wiped the stain
    of accusation and of spite,
    of ire and cold malevolence,
    and pray to God with all your might
    to hold your verbal violence.
    The quick hot flare of unchecked anger
    is your soul’s most mortal danger.

  4. bill (cycleguy)

    It is hard not to take things personally, especially when others around hear or see what goes on. But then again, consider the source. you did well holding your speech though Lisa and “I’m proud of you.” But more than that, I believe God is saying, “Well done.” We often ruin our Christian witness by using our mouths instead of keeping them silenced. And you never know the influence you had by keeping your mouth shut. As for taking credit: I don’t think it’s bad to say “welcome” to the lady who wanted to say thanks to you. You touched her life with the love of Jesus.

  5. sue

    Excellent, Lisa. The writing, yes, but most of all the lesson. Funny how I can take the credit for compliments and get hurt w/ the bad press. I wish that line: it’s not about me wasn’t so overused because it’s true. Blessings on you especially for staying out in the freezing cold. I’m a weather pansy.


    WOW!!! I can relate with ALL those emotions. I worked in our small hometown pharmacy for 17 years. I saw the good, bad, and ugly. I always felt sincere sympathy for the parents/children of the ones who lash out. You know that if they lash at you, someone closer to them is also being attacked. It is so hard not to take it personally! You are so correct in this is not who God created them to be, and it isn’t about us. It is the enemy, and we chose to honor God, or embarrass God, when we react. Keep the inspiration coming, sister!!

  7. floyd

    Wow. That’s amazing wisdom to be able to see both sides of that issue. And in the end it’s still always a fight against our flesh raising up in pride. I can so relate.

    I guess that’s the reason year after year I make my words “humility”. Thanks for the reminder and example in the heat of battle.

  8. ~ linda

    Oh Lisa, this is so humbling! I know that church lady, liking her and not! She wants all the credit and then is sure it is someone else’s fault. A reminder this evening for me. I posted my first post tonight since August. I feel like I may be coming back as I am drawn this week to write. I will see what God’s plans are.
    Sending you wishes for a very Merry Christmas, Lisa. Loving you, ~ Linda

  9. Michele Morin

    Oh, what a thoughtful perspective here, Lisa. We are so quick to take offense–and to take credit! We want to be appreciated for our efforts and we sure don’t want to deal with other peoples’ garbage.
    I have a policy about this when it comes to my kids. So far, they’re all doing great: transitioning into adulthood and embracing their faith. I can’t take credit for that, so matter how much good stuff I hear about them–and by the same token, if one or more go off the rails at some point in the future, I shouldn’t take the blame for that either.

  10. Joanne

    Sorry you had to deal with such backlash for trying to help but what a wonderful stance to take on it! Thanks for sharing with us at Encouraging Hearts and Home. Pinned.

  11. Ed

    WOW! What truth in what you write. I know there’s a lot that I mean to be sorry for. Not things that I have done that affects other people, but things that cause me to harm myself.. like worrying about what I did yesterday or what’s going to happen tomorrow, or even things I might have done or said today that aren’t worth saying “I’m sorry!”
    I have to accept that there are certain things in my life that have happened, or that will happen that I can’t actually change.. no matter what.
    I remember an old customer of mine. Although I only waited on him once, and really can’t remember, I remember his words. “Don’t be sorry!” Makes sense.

  12. Cheryl Gerou

    Such a powerful post. I see the church lady in me, and it is so convicting. You’re right, grace is the only thing we can take personally because apart from His grace we have nothing! Thank you for the raw honesty of this post, as I read it I found a mirror held up, and an altar for repentance.

  13. Maree Dee

    Oh, I am so sorry you got yelled at. It never feels good. But you are so right to let it go. Hurting people strike out at others. It isn’t about us. Thank you for sharing with Grace & Truth Link-Up.

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