Before we say goodbye to the month of February, let me share one last thing that I just found when I was cleaning off my desk, written on Valentine's Day last year, right as we were all beginning to feel the stress and worry of COVID entering our lives.
Because I work daily with preschoolers, we spend a tremendous amount of time talking about kindness, about being gentle with each other's hearts, and about using kind words when we are frustrated, upset, and trying to resolve a situation, so it's lovely every year when February rolls around and gives us another wonderful opportunity to reinforce these challenging concepts and skills. But last year, right around Valentine's Day, I had an unfortunate encounter with another adult that hurt me deeply and left me so emotionally wounded that I was struggling with how to reconcile what I was feeling with what I daily preach to the children. How I got from hurt and anger to understanding and forgiveness as quickly as I did is depicted perfectly in the words I wrote below. The month that we all celebrate love seems the perfect time to share them with you here, if for no other reason than as a reminder that love really, truly IS always the answer. Perhaps you'll find healing here too. I hope so. ❤
At first, it was genuine hurt that wanted to swallow me.
The kind of hurt that in the moment it's happening makes your heart feel as though it's beating out of your chest, then later when the reality of the hurtful words have had a chance to really sink in feels more like your heart breaking in half.
The kind of hurt that makes you replay the incident over and over and over again, desperately searching for where you possibly misunderstood, and praying that perhaps the person didn't really mean what they actually said.
The kind of hurt that makes you question everything you do, everything you thought you knew, and everything you are at your core.
The kind of hurt that turns to anger and injustice once it's deciphered, and that for literally hours leaves you shaky, upset, and on the verge of full blown sobbing from its overwhelming emotional impact.
The kind of hurt that for someone who believes everything happens for us and not to us, makes you question what God could possibly be trying to teach you.
Then, in an instant that can only be described as divine intervention, you receive a message from an angel that says, "I saw this (meme) and it made me think of you. Thank you for all you do."
The kind of message that reminds you of your tremendous impact and immeasurable worth.
The kind of message that floods your body with endorphins and makes your heart swell.
The kind of message that rewards the sort of hard work that can at times feel unnoticed and underappreciated.
The kind of message that nearly instantly undoes all the bad that happened before it.
The kind of message that makes you tear up because you know - you just know - that God was behind the healing power of that message.
How can He be behind both situations, you may wonder...behind what we perceive as bad, as well as what we perceive as good?
Perhaps because both have important learning to teach and wisdom to impart.
Perhaps because there are moments we need to be reminded that we are surrounded by blessings every single day, even when things seem dark and hard.
Perhaps because there are times we need to consider that everything is not always what it appears to be on the surface.
Perhaps because one creates more awareness of, and appreciation for, the other.
Perhaps because when that sweet healing message came to me, I was finally able in that moment to begin to release my grip on the anger that was trying to consume me (my ego that felt insulted), and take a much needed step back to reconsider.
I was able to grasp the very real possibility that there were untold multiple stressors at play in the life of my adversary at the moment those hurtful words were deployed, and that perhaps I was merely on the receiving end of this person's pressure cooking release valve.
Did this person mean everything that was said? Possibly.
Did they intend to be hurtful? Not sure.
Did they know their words would be received so very personally by me? Likely not.
Would they have said what they did had all those other stressors in their life not been at play in that moment? Difficult to say, but I'm guessing probably not.
Does it matter? The ego says, yes, of course, but the heart tells a different story because in the end it comes down to this:
If I wish to be forgiven for the hurt I cause, whether that hurt is intentional or unintentional, forgiveness is also required of me. I must forgive if I, too, wish to be forgiven. It's that simple. And that hard.
If I wish to be on the receiving end of God's grace, must I not also extend love, grace, and understanding to others? Perhaps we only grow strong in grace when we truly try to understand the magnitude of God's unconditional forgiveness of us, and then learn to unconditionally forgive others.
If I wish to not be judged for what cannot be seen, then I also must not judge, for there really is more often that not more at play in harsh words and misunderstandings than can be seen. Think of how much stress is operating in the background of your life at any given moment - stress that many, if not most, have no idea of. We usually manage to hold that stress at bay - to keep it under the radar - until something tips the scales. In this case, maybe COVID was tipping the scales?
Judge not lest thou be judged.
So often life presents us with choices.
In this particular situation, I could choose to remain angry and hurt, which comes with a whole lot of negative physical and emotional impact, or I can choose to give the benefit of the doubt. Because, ultimately, how we react IS a choice.
I can choose to let the good with this person outweigh the bad.
I can choose to see the blessings and the learning.
I can choose to accept that this wasn't as much about me as perhaps it was about them.
I can choose to let go and trust God for what I believe He sees that I cannot, and for what He knows that I do not.
I can choose to forgive, and in so doing I can shine enough light to drown the dark, and I can perpetuate the love and healing I so desperately wish for all.
We learn from everything that happens... absolutely everything.
We need only choose to see and hear the messages.
Valentine's Day ♥