A colleague was describing someone I was going to meet. “He will appear to mild mannered California. Do not be deceived. He is hard as nails. If you cross him, he will enjoy stabbing you in the back as you pass. Don’t be fooled.”
I took the advice, carrying it closely so that at every point in our conversation I listened in the context of the warning. He was nice. He was collegial. Life had also given him a hard side. I left with no doubt that the warning was insightful and true.
I naturally hope that the forceful side of life does not have to play itself out in my life or anywhere else. As a service technician recently tried to bring and installing the wrong part, I realized the intensity and edge in my voice was growing. I was brutally candid.
“I hate behaving like you imagine an American to be when he or she is angry. I dislike the anger from my inside out. Yet, unless I get this way, you do not seem to get the point? Is there anywhere we can step around the confrontation we are now in?
To the technician’s credit, he turned and for the first time began to listen. It was as if he offered me a door to dialogue. As we walked in, I could feel the conversation shift. He was doing what he could. His best was limited by what he knew and what his boss would allow. My intensity belonged somewhere else.
With the gentle tropical breeze washing over me this morning, it is easy to forget that we are in a battle between good and evil. The example of God responding to evil leaves me a model I can embrace or abandoned. “The psalmist said, “He laid them low, one and all; he walked all over them.”” (1 Corinthians 15.25) There is a time and place for force in our lives. I was lucky that I discovered it was not with the technician; it was with his boss. Knowing the difference is key.