Friday, February 1, 2008

Reckless! Reckless! Reckless!

Last fall I had a bit of an altercation with my sister-in-law, Penn's older and only sister.

The whole family was assembled at Penn's parents' house. We were just about ready to depart for home when the brouhaha went down.

I was standing on one end of the kitchen, with Penn and Nicknack. SIL was on the other side of the kitchen. About ten family members were between us.

I was just thinking, "I wonder where I put my shoes..." when I realized my SIL had sort of launched into a little tirade. About me! It was basically a series of critical observations about how I tell Penn every little thing to do or say or think, and how he does it.

This all stemming from the fact that she brought him some "Mickey's" beer (because it was his favorite twenty years ago, when he was 18) and he oh-so graciously (or not) refused her kind gesture by misquoting me. "No thanks, Kitty says Mickey's is ghetto." What I said was that Mickey's was "tacky." And I said this in passing, about five years ago, in the beer aisle of the grocery store. I had no idea that comment would come back to haunt me these many years later.

Here are a few things you should know about me. I cry at the drop of a hat. I have a short temper. I have a very thin skin. It's not a good combination and it's never pretty when the stars align and I feel a) angry and b) hurt... at the same time.

So I instantly felt egregiously misunderstood and publicly attacked. At first, I tried to defend myself. For about four seconds. Then I felt the waterworks starting. Then I flew off the handle. Then I said some rather harsh things to Penn about said SIL, within earshot of everyone in the kitchen. Then I stormed out of the house. I hate for people to see me cry, don't you?

I was so upset as I stood by the Jeep waiting for Penn to collect our things (and child), join me, and most importantly UNLOCK the vehicle. I was fuming. I was injured. I was indignant. And I was relieved that the deluge of rain hid my tears. At least those driving by wouldn't know what was up. I still had some semblance of dignity. Then I looked down and realized I was standing in a muddy puddle in my stocking feet. In my dramatic and hasty exit I had failed to remember to put on shoes. My MIL had to mail them to me.

I railed against my SIL most of the way home, declaring that I never wanted to see that horrible person again. I felt quite supported when Penn and his brother (who was riding with us) both took my side and agreed with me that SIL had a big jerk.

About a month passed and Thanksgiving approached. Hurray! I had already made special plans with my mother (my family always eats together on Friday) for Thursday and was able to bow out of the annual Penn Family Thanksgiving experience.

By this time I had gotten over being angry. I even thought about writing a note to SIL. You know, not exactly an over-the-top apology, but something to smooth things over. But every time I thought about how I might word this little note it came out very Anne of Green Gables: "What I said about you was true, too, only I shouldn't have said it!" Even though I wished I'd reacted differently I still felt that she was 90% in the wrong. When I shared with my mother the general gist of the note I was considering she quietly noted, "I'm not sure I hear an apology anywhere in what you plan to say." I decided I just wasn't that sorry.

I opted instead to send a case of Mickeys (with a bow) along with Penn and Nicknack. I thought he would come walking in and she would have to laugh and that would break the ice.

But what really happened was that she took one look at it and said, "That's NOT funny." She spent the rest of the day ignoring him, going so far as to remove herself from whatever room he entered.

Well, when he told me that I got all fired up again. "I certainly am glad I did NOT send her that note!" I huffed, eyebrows raised. I decided I would avoid all of Penn's family gatherings from now until eternity. Penn and Nicknack would still go. Everyone would be happy.

A few weeks ago I was thinking about the incident again. All of a sudden I realized that I had overreacted! Duh! Up until that point I was really just so focused on what my SIL had said and how incorrect her assessment was and all the little things I didn't like about her. Even though I knew I hadn't reacted well, I felt like my response was normal and justified. How almost any ordinary person would react. So this feeling of remorse took me by surprise, as God reminded me that I wasn't supposed to behave like any old ordinary person. Especially when I represent "a Christian" to my SIL, a nonbeliever.

Since that realization it seems as if almost every topic that has come up in my Bible study group has reminded me of how badly I acted and how I should have behaved. Every book I've picked up seems to directly address the subject. And each time I've thought about it I've said to myself, "I guess I'm going to have to send that note after all." Cringe!

Well. I guess today was the day.

Here are just a few of the verses I came across in the course of my reading this afternoon in ONE chapter of a book I am currently reading:

Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with one another and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12-14

In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything. 1 Timothy 3:11

The heart of the righteous weighs its answer, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil. Proverbs 15:28

For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned. Matthew 12:33-37

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14

Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Proverbs 12:18

Ouch.

That word "reckless" flashed up at me like a neon sign. Reckless! Reckless! Reckless! I was finally totally convicted and practically jumped up off the sofa to write my note that very instant.

As it so happens I wrote a few belated Christmas thank you notes just this morning, so my notecards, stamps, address book, and return address labels were still assembled on the table. Handy.

It took three attempts before I felt my note was contrite enough. As I proofread my final effort I was amazed to find that every word was sincere. It's probably a good thing I waited until I really felt sorry to say I was sorry. I think a half hearted attempt could have made things worse.

I have no idea if my SIL will accept my apology. And I still don't want to see her. Not because of pride. After all this, believe me, pride has left the building. But there is still a great deal of potential awkwardness. Now would be a great time for my husband to accept a job transfer to Zimbabwe.

I am going to drop the letter off at the post office when Penn gets home from work. I just want it to get there as soon as possible.

And from now on I'm going to clothe myself in gentleness before I leave the house so I don't have to suffer this humiliation ever again!

12 comments:

Alana said...

Kitty. That is awesome. It is so hard to do what you did. I'm proud of you. I will pray that your gesture will soften her heart to you and to God.

Leslie said...

That IS hard! My SIL and I had a bit of a tiff not too long ago...we apologized profusely to one another...and yet there is still a bit of awkwardness. Like we are trying extra hard to be careful we don't upset one another again. You did the right thing. I hope your SIL responds positively.

Lisa said...

Oh, Kitty, I pray that God will bless you. There is nothing quite as difficult as a family tift. My husband's older sister is much like the description of your SIL. She and I had trouble for years - crazy stuff and ALWAYS in front of other family members. She's a jewel. But, over the years, I've learned how NOT to listen to her rantings and ravings. Somewhere along the way, God gave me a thicker skin just for SIL.
God also reminded me that she needs my love and prayers as much, if not more than, anyone. So, I started praying extra for her - and I still am.
Best wishes and many blessings for you, my friend.

connorcolesmom said...

Oh family hurts are the worst. I do hope that the wounds between you and the SIL eventually can move past all of it and enjoy one another's company!
Isn't God funny how He puts something in our path until we get it.
Have a great weekend!
Love ya,
Kim

Susan said...

So proud of you, Kitty. I think it's even more difficult to apologize to our family members. God has been giving me a Word lately on gentleness and all of the things you spoke about. Convicting.
Love ya.

Robin said...

Wow - what an amazing and honest post. Good job - you listened to the Holy Spirit who wants to do a good and mighty work in your heart. Your obedience to His voice will bless you so much. It really doesn't matter what her reaction to your apology is. Although I hope it is positive. But you did what you were supposed to do and now you can have peace! Sweet peace.
Isn't is amazing that the Creator of the universe cares so much for us that He won't leave us alone? I love it!!!

Breathing His Joy said...

God really seemed to tender your heart and allowed you to write that letter at the right time. I'll be praying for God to heal any awkwardness between you both. Isn't it amazing how HIS words can hit us at just the right time.

Jules said...

Thanks for sharing about your hardship, your failure, your frustraition, most importantly your willing heart to allow God to speak to you and having the willingness and meekness to follow through with His calling. It is encouraging to know that others are out there facing some of the same struggles we feel. The devil always makes things appear bigger than they are. Don't I know it. :o) Keep your chin up and know you have ppl praying for you and your SIL. Your letter may be the witness she's looking for.

Melissa @ Breath of Life said...

Family situations are tough, to say the least. I've been there with my in-laws on an occasion or two or hundred...

I'm glad you waited until you were actually sorry. That would've been hard for me to do.

Jules said...

Wouldn't you know that the scripture for today (2-6-08) on my bible webstite was Prov. 21:21? I decided to read a little before and after that and I thought of your blog entry and the reminder that God sent to me. Here are verses 21-23:

21He that followeth after righteousness and mercy findeth life, righteousness, and honour.

22A wise man scaleth the city of the mighty, and casteth down the strength of the confidence thereof.

23Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles.

It's amazing how God works in our lives. Thanks for the reminder that there are times that I need to keep my tongue in my mouth where it belongs. :o)

minnesotamom said...

Hm. I am glad to hear of your tenderness to the Lord's moving in your heart (even if it took awhile). I find that I can have nudgings of the Holy Spirit and push them away, thinking if I just ignore my conviction it will pass. It doesn't pass. It eats away at the soul. So I am glad you are attempting to make restitution. I pray your SIL will forgive you, as you have forgiven her.

Linda said...

Family wounds definitely cut the deepest. But the important thing is that you have a pliable, teachable heart that the Lord can speak into.