“You have no idea what I went through! Don’t even pretend you do.”
The phrase echoed the halls and brought silence down on everyone’s head. Who can say anything after that? I had merely meant to offer condolences, a little comfort that she wasn’t alone, and a hand to hold. It didn’t come across that way, apparently. Whether the pain was too fresh, or she was holding onto it too tightly I could not tell you. It simply came down to she did not want nor accept my attempt to comfort her.
While she apologized in private later, the effect of what she said originally was devastating. We never spoke again about the matter. Our relationship cracked and eventually crumbled for a variety of reasons. And I learned to be very careful how I offer comfort to someone who is hurting.
This was probably a good lesson to learn, however I took it to the extreme. I learned to stay quiet, or to make disclaimers. I don’t know if those worked to show my heart or my fear, but I’m afraid I know. I allowed the fear of offending someone keep me from even trying to comfort anyone.
This is not an unusual pattern in my life, I’m sad to say. Too often when something happens I expect it to happen again. I assume the problem is only something to do with me. Someone tells me they don’t have time to lunch with me, I assume no one does. Someone thinks I’m not good enough to hang out with, I assume everyone does. Or, I should say assumed. These are lies I have been facing and breaking down.
The truth is there will be people we offend. There will be people who don’t have time for us. There will always be someone who looks for our failures. For some people no one can do anything right. That’s the way of life. But if we stop reaching out to each other, who will be there to comfort as they have been comforted? If we allow fear to shut us down, how will God use us to show His love?
Yes, it’s still scary for me when I step outside of my comfort zone. What I am learning is my boundaries ebb and flow with different people, and that’s as it should be. Above all I need to keep working to act out of love rather than fear. Things may not always go as smoothly as I want, but I can at least know I’m trying.