A member of my family (I won’t say who) made a bad choice recently. It was not the first time this person had done it, and I daresay it won’t be the last. If you’d put it to him (or her) as a question, “What’s the most likely reason Bad Thing X would happen?” he (or she) would have known the answer in an instant. If you’d said, “How will you feel about yourself?” he (or she) would have grimaced.
Yet he (or she) didn’t stop to think and barreled down a familiar path strewn with uncomfortable consequences. Needless to say, the person was not the only one affected by his (or her) actions.
When I found out (the hard way, of course), my reaction was better than it could have been, and not as good as it could be. I refrained from saying the unChristian thought that came to mind, though I thought it loud enough to be heard in another room. I hid my eye roll, but it was easy to see through the back of my head. People have a way of knowing when you’re thinking badly of them. It echoes their own thoughts of feeling bad about themselves.
I’ve observed that most of us have particular phrases that pop up when we’re irritated or upset. A friend of mine shouts, “What an idiot!” whenever she’s cut off by another driver. Another is prone to snapping, “He’s a jerk!” when annoyed. Labels like these are useful in that they protect us from taking someone else’s behavior too personally. Yet they’re harmful because they prevent us from seeing others the way God does. (Let’s be honest: if we ask Jesus why a person is acting hurtfully, the reply isn’t going to be, “Because she’s a moron.”)
So here’s my workaround. When an unwanted, unChristian label pops to mind, I link it to a reminder to pray. Like this:
What an idiot! Let me pray for him. Father…
He’s a jerk! And in need of prayer. Holy Spirit…
Moron! But not in God’s eyes. Jesus, help me see her as You do.
The more I remember to do this, the less frequently those pop-up thoughts occur. And then when they do happen–which is inevitable, since we can’t control every thought and feeling–the linkage to prayer pivots my heart in a better direction.