I went to the optometrist today and there was an elderly, irritated man standing at the front desk. The optometrist explained when his glasses would be ready with a foreign accent. His hostile response made my skin crawl: “I can’t understand a word you’re saying! Slow down and speak English so I can actually understand what you’re saying!” Everyone stood there in disbelief at his rudeness.
I waited for her sassy response or for her coworkers to react. But with a shocked look, she took a deep breath, slowed down, and spoke more clearly. That’s it. Her grace was beautiful. She seemed so confident to look past this man’s horrible remarks.
If any of you have lived in a country that speaks a different language than your own, you know how difficult it can be to communicate.
The time and energy it takes to think and speak in another language is taxing. When I lived in Guatemala for a short time, I had to listen with great intensity to every word in hopes of understanding. My mind was constantly working to put together what to say. It is exhilarating when another language comes more naturally over time, but it can also be exhausting.
If we consider the challenge of learning a second language, our approach would be more patient and compassionate to people “who don’t speak with a perfect accent.”
I couldn’t help myself. I walked up to her after the man left and said, “I’m sorry that man was so rude to you. You didn’t deserve that, and you speak great.” Not that she needed my encouragement, and maybe my words weren’t ideal, but I had to acknowledge that what he said was not okay.
As I left the office and thought about how rude he was, I reflected on ways that I might be guilty of a similar attitude. I thought about times I myself have gotten frustrated, especially on the phone, when I couldn’t understand what someone was saying to me. Witnessing the incident today made me pause and think about this question:
Who are we when no one we know is looking?
How do I treat people on the phone when no one is listening? How do I treat customer service employees when I’m frustrated? When no one else is around, how do I treat my own kids and husband? Would we act the same way if our friends were surrounding us? Convicting.
These are challenging questions, but if we want to follow Jesus, we have to do as he says and love God with all our heart and mind and soul and strength and love our neighbor as ourselves.
If you were on the receiving end, how would you want to be treated? Boundaries are important and needed in relationships and situations, but when we’ve been wronged, do we speak the truth in kindness or anger?
If we can interact with people and have our greatest hope be that they would see the love of Jesus by how we treat them, I think all of our attitudes would change.
While this grumpy man’s response unnerved me, I wonder how many times I have chosen rudeness over grace? We all fall short at times since we simply aren’t perfect, but when we do, let’s confess that, and get on with the business of trying our best to love God and love others, even when no one we know is looking.
Jesus’ words in John 13:35 say it best. “By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
To learn more about Linsey visit www.LinseyDriskill.com. You can follow her on Facebook or Instagram @BeautifulHeartedParenting.