Learning From our Less Than Perfect Experiences

     Monday morning, I was at the Department of Motor Vehicles renewing my driver’s license. I so rarely go to the DMV the protocols are unfamiliar.

     “Put your thumb on the blue light.” I hesitate and the clerk points to this small square on the counter that captures your thumbprint.

     The experience made me apprehensive. But why?

     It didn’t take long for the Holy Spirit to identify the reason. Pride. Fear of making a mistake, looking foolish, being looked down upon, made fun of…

     Most define pride as conceit, having an excessively high opinion of ourselves. Or perhaps haughtiness, which is acting in an arrogant manner. But there is a type of pride that prevents us from stepping out.

     An internet search uncovered this definition: “consciousness of one’s own dignity.” It was referred to as self-esteem and the opposite was shame.

     I can hear my mother’s words when I was a child, “What will people think?”

     This phrase usually had to do with family honor. What would people think of our family if we wore shabby clothes out in public, put our feet on the furniture while at a friend’s house, or were unfriendly to a student new to our school.

     Being concerned with what people think can result in good, kind, behavior. But rather than looking at it from the perspective of acting in a pleasing manner to keep from bringing shame on yourself or your family, I would like to consider ways we shame others that result in this apprehension at the DMV and other places. Does our behavior bring shame to another?

     I ask this because I realize my problem with unfamiliar places is a result of past embarrassment or shame. I am fearful of situations that result in these experiences. Knowing this, I tend to focus on reacting well to the actions of others, not allowing their behavior to deter me from practicing righteousness. But I can do more. I can make sure I do not cause such shame and embarrassment to others.

     “And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” Luke 6:31

     Sometimes it is impatience we have for others that makes them feel inferior. I hesitate to enter the “self-check” line in a store where I am not used to the machines. Those who routinely self-check can have an attitude of disdain when someone is slower than they are or makes mistakes and requires the clerk’s help.

     I put a check in my mental notebook next to “be patient” with those who are learning a new skill. Patience prevents shame.

     Navigating a freeway system in a large city, I do not know, causes apprehension as well. As I frantically try to read signs so I might change lanes to make the interchanges, other drivers tailgate, refusing to let up on the gas so I can squeeze into their lane to make an exit. Mentally I note, “practice kindness.”

     I think of things I don’t want to admit to others because I will be laughed at or called stupid. Once I subscribed to a publication that promised a “daily word” I assumed was from the word of God, only to find out that it referenced the Bible but was false teaching. What are people afraid to share because it might bring humiliation. I vow not to humiliate others.

     As Christians, we often remind each other that it isn’t so much what others do to us but how we react. I frequently grab the command to love our enemies and if someone does something despicable to us respond in kindness. (Luke 6:27-28)

     But after my trip to the DMV, I am reminded to make others feel comfortable in those unfamiliar situations by coming alongside with patience and kindness. Making sure I am not that person who brings shame upon another, prompting them to determine how to respond kindly to me despite my callousness.

©2023 Susan Cort Johnson *All Rights Reserved

Image by Al Gr from Pixabay

Let’s Talk:

1-What “less than” experiences have you had that have resulted in a greater understanding of how to treat others?

2-What have you learned from the acts of unkindness you have experienced that has helped hone you into the image of Jesus Christ?

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