“What if we had Roundup® for relationships?”
Some months ago, our pastor posed this question when he preached on the topic of recovering from betrayal. Peter denied Jesus not once but three times. Saul repeatedly professed affection and admiration for David only to pursue him as the most passionate of enemies. And Judas, well, we all know what he did.
I still wince in pain when I come across the name of a former colleague – someone I’d considered a good friend – whose actions hurt me deeply when my first book released.
Many years earlier, another individual whom I’d mentored turned against me with a viciousness that literally made me ill.
But then there was that other time over 20 years ago when I was speaking via translator to a group of women in Brazil only to have a disheveled, wild-eyed man burst into the room spewing invective over me. Shocked, the translator fled for assistance, but the man’s obscene outbursts didn’t penetrate my calm in the slightest.
The difference? The first two were friends of many years – or at least I thought they were –while the third was a total stranger. His incoherent ranting had no power to hurt me.
“Only people we let into our lives completely can cut us deeply,” pastor Chris reflected.
I bet you’ve had similar experiences as well. Like me, maybe you’ve experienced small-scale betrayal: Garden-variety stuff that did not result in the loss of your life or your livelihood.
In middle school, a once-close friend abandoned you for a more popular crowd. In the workplace, a coworker took credit for your ideas resulting in a promotion that should have been yours. In a church you served, you joyfully welcomed parishioners into your home and your heart only to hear through the grapevine they were attending elsewhere.
Just as that well-known lawn treatment product promises to do away with the weeds while leaving your lawn unharmed, wouldn’t it be handy if we had something similar for relationships? Some organic pesticide that could rid your life of toxic friendships – or at least keep them under control – while preserving those that add value to your days.
No. Nada. Zilch. Nopedy-nope-nope.
Who would we be if we banished every prickly person from the garden of our life? How would we ever learn to love without condition, accept without agreement, and forgive without resentment? As much as we might wish it otherwise, difficult people just might be the Miracle-Gro we need for the growth of our souls.
So here’s what we do instead: Round up, like when you pay for your groceries and the clerk asks if you want to “round up” to the nearest dollar as a contribution to a worthy cause. You give that little bit extra.
When a friend lets you down, round up. Give her that extra benefit of the doubt. Maybe her thoughtlessness is due to unseen needs in her own life.
When a coworker speaks poorly of you to others, round up. Contextualize his criticism. You are likely not the only target of his spite.
And when a family member disappoints you, round up. Ask God for the spiritual strength to keep your own emotions in check until you’ve walked around every side of the situation, including theirs. Especially theirs.
We’re all human. We mess up. It takes time to grow up.
Give the other person room to mature as well, even as forgiveness works the soil of your heart to make space for compassion to grow.
Grant that difficult individual an extra measure of grace.
- Maggie Wallem Rowe, 2022
Maggie Wallem Rowe is an author, speaker, and dramatist who writes from Peace Ridge, her home in the mountains of western North Carolina. She is the author of This Life We Share: 52 Reflections on Journeying Well with God and Others, and Life is Sweet, Y'all: Wit and Wisdom with a Side of Sass.