The verbal exchange occurred on a Tuesday morning more than 18 years ago, yet I still replay the scene as if there is something I could have done differently. There were three participants, our mutual boss, a co-worker, and myself. Two of us disagreed on something and the answer we mutually thought was best was to discuss it in front of our boss, give him the opportunity to provide additional input that one of us might have missed (take sides).
We began a collegial discussion of differing views and quickly moved into a full argument which “matured” into a personal slinging match. Given my lack of maturity, my abilities in being cynical, sarcastic, and critical reached a new low. With little pride, I verbally beat my opponent with a very large bat of verbal abuse. Whatever guilt I felt was soothed by my boss who confirmed that my opponent frequently was unable to listen, take advice, or accept criticism. I knew I had won the battle.
One week later we were right back to where we had started. It was as if nothing had changed, we had never discussed the issue, and no battles had been fought or won. The process began again and was to occur time and again over the next few years. Nothing ever changed while we worked together.
“A quiet rebuke to a person of good sense does more than a whack on the head of a fool.” (Proverbs 17.10)
I reflect on this relationship every time I find myself wondering about what do to next. Do I hear any better than my adversary? Did I have any idea of how similar I already was to my opponent? Could I admit that I would grow to become even more like him than I would ever be willing to admit?
God loves you and me with an intensity and patience far beyond comprehension. His feedback is direct and usually gentle; we often ignore it with ease. God knows what is at stake and perseveres because he loves us.
Listening, loving, and learning. Life.