A soothing tongue is a tree of life, but perversion in it crushes the spirit. Proverbs 15:4
I’m not fashionable at all. I used to get my hair cut twice a year. In the interim, I’d wear it up in a clip and trim my own bangs when necessary.
When we moved eight years ago, having two kids under the age of three and boxes everywhere, getting my hair cut didn’t even make it onto the priority list. Plus, I had no idea where to go. When I couldn’t avoid it any longer, I ended up at a hair salon that was far more posh on the inside than it appeared from the outside.
As I sat in the stylist’s chair, she proceeded to cut me down while snipping my hair: the style of my bangs was from The Eighties, I should dye the gray out, the texture of my hair was frizzy and brittle, etc., etc. I am extremely uncomfortable with confrontation and avoid it at all cost. Moreover, I was too sleep deprived and concerned about the outcome of my haircut to speak up and piss her off. Consequently, I sat there and said nothing.
It still bothers me to this day that I was charged A LOT of money by someone who insulted me. Needless to say, I never went back to that salon. After years of trial and error, I finally found a salon that suites who I am.
However, when Jocelyn needed her hair cut right before Christmas, her regular stylist was not available. So we went with someone new. As I was explaining to her how I wanted Jocelyn’s hair cut, she was downright condescending to me. I sat in the waiting area seething. Maybe because this stylist was all of 22 years of age, or maybe because I had held onto that eight year old resentment, I decided to face my fears and confront her before we left. (I was smart enough, though, to know I had to wait until she was done so she wouldn’t take anything out on Jocelyn’s hair.)
Once my decision was made, I spent the wait time planning what I would say. I was thinking of all the scathing things I could say to put her in her place. I even practiced my speech in my head so I’d be sure to hit all my points.
After I felt ready for the big event, I sat there patting myself on the back, so proud of myself for planning to go outside of my comfort zone. I even felt relaxed enough to open the book that I am currently reading and had brought along. That’s when my whole plan fell apart…
There are no coincidences. God uses everything to get our attention, and to teach us wherever we are at. So when I opened Mark Buchanan’s “The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul By Restoring Your Sabbath” (yes, I am STILL reading this book…), I knew God was talking directly to me. I read, “I used to think the spiritual life was mostly about finding and using our gifts for God’s glory – my utmost for His highest. More and more, I think it is not this, not first, not most. At root, the spiritual life consists in choosing the way of littleness. I become less so that Jesus might become greater. Its essence is NO – No to ourselves, our impulses and cravings, our acts of self-promotion and self vindication, our use of power for its own sake… Exercise power – power you might use otherwise – to serve, bless, protect.”
Ah crap!, I thought. How could I use my scathing speech now? I know words have immense power. I was just about to wield mine to intentionally cause harm, certainly not to “bless and protect.” If I really do want to be on a journey towards a deeper spirituality, how could I justify that?
The fact is, I couldn’t. Oh how I wished I hadn’t opened that book. But I did. And I got God’s message loud and clear.
So I had to close the book and rewrite my speech. I still thought I had a reason to speak up: she had insulted me, and that’s not okay. But I had to approach her from a place of wanting her to understand that she had made me feel stupid, not a place where I was trying to make her feel stupid. I had to look at the bigger picture: hoping that I could inspire her to not treat others badly so she could have a long and prosperous career in the customer service industry. Most importantly, I had to consider her feelings, and treat her the way I wished she had treated me. Like this Scripture passage says, I had to use a soothing tongue to be a tree of life, not a biting tongue that would crush her spirit.
I’d love to report that I spoke eloquently: that I was profound and compassionate and wise. But I can’t. I guess I hadn’t practiced the second speech as much as the first. So I rambled and rambled and rambled. And although I was trying to protect her feelings, I was still too fired up and defensive. I let too much negative emotion into it. So maybe, just maybe, I might have told her she was “condescending” to me…
But I am happy to report that I tried to be kind, even though I didn’t want to be. Seeing how I’ve never been well spoken and this is one of the first times I’ve confronted someone, I’m okay with that. Although the outcome was substantially less than perfect, progress was made.
Now I know what my New Year’s Resolution is going to be: to practice honoring the other, even when I’ve been wronged, so that I’m using my power “to serve, bless and protect.”
(My other New Year’s Resolution is to finish that darned book!)
Happy New Year everyone!
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Well, I’m proud of you for speaking up. It’s so hard to tell someone your upset with them in a constructive, non-demeaning way. Good for you for making such a great effort to be gracious!! It’s a New Years Resolution that we could all work on!!
It sure is hard, and I have a long way to go to do it well. But baby steps, right?…
With age I find myself less and less likely to bother with people like that. She had something going on in her life that she was looking for a confrontation with someone to vent. I would have said I am not taking the bait. I think her hair can wait another week. Thanks anyway. Have a nice day. Would have got her thinking. Easy to say that now, I do have that Irish temper though :o) .
I have a lot to learn from you Paul! Keep the advice coming 🙂