Monday, January 14, 2008

Making Changes

Have you ever had the blessing of being able to watch someone change for the better? It never fails to amaze me what individuals can make of themselves when they are making an honest effort.  This weekend I saw something that showed me in an instant how much progress someone had made: a smile.  Nearly the whole time I've known her, while she didn't seem like a mean or depressed person, the woman who smiled at me nearly always spoke in harsh, sarcastic tones and was never particularly welcoming or friendly.  I've seen a few changes in her the last few months, I admit that is still caught me off guard when I walked up to her and was greeted with a very genuine, very warm smile.

With that smile, I realized two things:  I had seldom seen a genuine, happy, spontaneous smile on her face before; and I did not realize how much frustrated resentment I had harbored over the way I had been treated--didn't realize it, at least, until that warm smile melted it all away.  That resentment should never have existed to begin with.  The way that she treated me was had nothing to do with me personally--it was never about me, but with my frustration, I had made it about myself.  Even in telling myself that I needed to be patient I was (quite subconsciously) being somewhat condescending about it.  Though I would never consciously think this way,  I realize now that my attitude was very much that I needed to be the bigger person and show her patience because she wasn't at my level yet.  What an awful way that is to view another person who is, at heart, a good person.

The fact is, the better I get to know her and the more I know about her, the more I realize how much strength and determination it must've taken to make the many good decisions that she has made.  I also realize now how hard she must have been working the last year on her personal progression for someone like me, who isn't even close to her, to see such a change in her demeanor.  Certainly she's been striving to be better person, and all that entails--a better wife, better mother, better leader, etc.  That deserves appreciation and respect, not resentment and condescension.

As I thought about that, I wondered how many times in the past I have done something similar and missed--how many times had I dismissed someone as something less than what they truly were and could be and never knew it because there was no kind smile to make me reevaluate? How many people have I unfairly misjudged because my own ego wasn't in check--because I trusted my own opinion or perception more than the Lord's judgment?  I remember reading somewhere a long time ago that you should be kind, because everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle. I forgot that for a while.

I know that my perception of this particular person has not changed solely because of the changes she's made.  I seldom find myself continually irritated or angry at anyone in my life for very long.  So when someone comes along that I have a difficult time with, whose behavior or attitude I may be tempted to dismiss as immature or what have you, I remind myself that that person is a child of God, just as I am.  It is my obligation to try to see everyone in that light.  So this woman has been in my prayer the last few months.  I have asked my Father to help me to feel more kindness toward her--more specifically, I have asked many times to for Him to help me see her as He sees her, and I believe that prayer has been answered.   I feel no anger, resentment or even passing irritation toward her.  I feel love for her.  Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.  He loves his children, and so I believe that whenever any of us see one another through his eyes, we must love each other.  I wonder if at some point she may have smiled as warmly at me, said something that was full of kindness, and I missed it because I wasn't ready to see her that way.  I'm grateful that I didn't miss it this time.

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