This is a story about one and sadly not the other.
This past weekend was a wet and cold one. We currently have family in town. On Saturday we all gathered in a tiny dojo to watch Bug graduate to a yellow belt in karate (HUGE deal, you guys, can I get a quick round of applause?). And after church today, we decided to bring the whole gang out to Gatlinburg for a day at the aquarium. Perfect for a rainy day with a chance of flurries.
Because of this wintry weather, we broke the rules and dropped everyone off in the Trolley Only lane. By the time six of us, including three kids, a stroller, and thirty pounds of diaper bags, tumbled out of two cars, the trolley had arrived, and we, along with the two other cars behind us, were holding it up.
We broke the rules, and an angry woman waiting to get on the trolley came up to tell me that.
Now, I know I usually come across this blog as a sweet, mild-tempered, meek Proverbs 31 woman (RIGHT, you guys?) but I can sometimes have a razor sharp tongue. This was one of those times.
I might have argued back. I might have pointed out that she hadn’t been waiting in the rain, that I had children I didn’t want wet and cold, that I was fully aware of the traffic jam, as were, I was sure, the other two cars behind us. I might have laughed in her direction when she finally boarded the trolley and the driver decided to step off for a smoke break. I might have said to my mother but loud enough for my words to carry that I hoped she wasn’t in a hurry, that the traffic still wasn’t moving, that she was probably just mad because she was having a bad hair day, and maybe a few other sharply-laced barbs I am too ashamed to own.
I might just be a snarky little turd.
After laughing about it with my mother and sister-in-law and filling in my husband, who had missed the whole incident, I barely gave her another thought.
Until 2:30am (when I actually started writing this) when I woke up to a whimpering Bean. After I comforted my child back to sleep, I started thinking of some other quips I might have said. I thought about my quick wit, how her only retaliation was repeating our inconsideration and the reality that we had indeed broken the rules and held up traffic. I thought about how I surely had won that battle of words.
Then I wondered if she had given me another thought today, if my words had kept her up. I wondered what might have happened if I had just apologized, foregoing the right I thought I had to call her irritation and raise with sarcasm. I wondered if she felt bigger because she had confronted a rule breaker, but left feeling smaller.
Now, at 3:02am I feel far less proud of my wit and much more annoyed with my inability to clamp down on my tongue. I want to explain my rottenness, to dilute it. I want to choose to remember her bitter tone, her singling me out to attack, and consider my actions justified.
But I know it isn’t about how I can stand up for myself, how I don’t let anyone talk down to me.
It’s about refusing to show kindness, about failing to to see what Jesus sees, about holding on tightly to my pride. It’s about trying to transfer the guilt I felt for inconveniencing a trolley full of people when my transgression was called to light. It was about retaliation.
I no longer feel like I had some right to put her in her place, or that she should have been more understanding when I clearly was not. And I cannot help but feel a tiny bit grateful that my husband, a much bigger person with a much deeper well of patience, as well as both my kids, had missed my example of how to be a troll.
And I wonder if someone else had been kind to her today, because I most deliberately was not.
14 responses to “On Quick Wit and Kindness”
Nailed it. I also suffer from the combination of a sharp wit and short fuse. It gets me in trouble with my wife and family more than strangers at the trolley stop, but the story is the same. (James 3)
When I lose my temper, I rarely get emotional. Instead, I’m the cool-headed rational one carefully delivering poisonous blows. I used to think that made me better, smarter, bigger, but it’s really just a better way to fight when my game should be about love.
Been there done that, and don’t we wish we could go back and change it? Sometimes the desire to “win” trumps all, but we live and learn.
Yes. The desire to “show ’em up” is definitely a strong one. Live and learn indeed.
Well-said. There are times we need to stand up for ourselves and times we need to shrug and walk away–not that you did anything wrong in this particular situation. The mere fact you were thinking about it speaks well of you.
Thank you, but this was definitely one of the times I should have shrugged and let it go. I was, actually, inconveniencing a group of people, and being called out put me all up in arms.
Oh, my. I may not have confronted the lady at the trolley stop, but I would’ve said it in my heart. So what’s the difference? According to Jesus, nothing. And like Jared above, my mouth gets me in the most trouble with my family.
True. But I wouldn’t have given the trolley stop lady more to gripe and be angry about. And even as I think an apology would have been the right response, the troll in me still pipes up to say, “Hah! Now THAT would have taken the wind out of HER sails!”
Aw Schmoopie. Be gentle with yourself. 94% of the time you are that Proverbs girl. And you’re always a woman to me. 😉
Lady, you have too much faith in the part of me I choose to show on this blog. And that’s why I love you and want to store you in my pocket. 🙂
Oh, we are so alike. I have to bite my tongue a lot. I’m pretty sure it’s scarred. 🙂
I’m surprised I haven’t bitten mine off yet. 🙂
I just think those thoughts and pretend I’m angelic. Yup, not exactly the requirements that are going to get me into the Angel of the Month club…
They have one of those?! My membership application must have gotten lost in the mail.