Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Colossians 3:12
Someone else’s shame is so easy to feed and I can do it without knowing it. How? By sharing my good news with a person who is experiencing struggles in the very same area as my victory. Here are a few examples.
- I’m in the peak of health and have just finished a 5k. I’m excited and want to share my success with a friend. The problem is, that friend has physical limitations. She is struggling with her health and discouraged by what she can no longer do. By sharing my good news in great detail, she feels worse but may never tell me because she loves me. There should have been a filter on my storytelling.
- Over lunch, someone very well off financially shares news about their upcoming trip to Europe. She forgets the fact that one of her friends at the table is barely making ends meet. Nonetheless, stories of exotic travel continues. It’s very possible the woman who is fighting to stay afloat already feels shamed. Many wealthy people believe that if someone is poor, they had to have done something wrong. There should have been a filter on the storytelling.
- You get together with a friend you haven’t seen in a while. You go armed with pictures and stories of your children, even your grandchildren. Talking about them brings you such joy. The problem is ~ your friend and her husband are struggling with family issues. Your friend lives wondering what they are all doing wrong. Without thinking, you share story after story about your family. Your friend is polite as she listens and long suffering as she looks at all the pictures. Meanwhile, while she cares about you, her grief has doubled. She’s too ashamed now to talk honestly and finds that her stories are caught in her throat. Shame has won. There should have been a filter on the storytelling.
You might be asking, “Shouldn’t the person who is hurting be able to share in someone else’s joy?” The answer is yes but the other person’s news should also be told with some sensitivity. If you’re the one who is fighting despair, a flood of good news feels far more painful than a simple condensed version. Applying a filter to my storytelling fits in with Paul’s words from Colossians. I clothe my ‘stories’ with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, and gentleness. To regard my hurting friend as more valuable than the joy I would get from telling my good news is what Jesus would ask of me. If I love her more than I love myself, if I am her servant, I refrain from exacerbating the pain inside her already wounded heart.
Help me prayerfully anticipate my audience – being willing to edit a story or two. Amen