Telling the truth in love is not always easy, but with a little help from my friends I was able to share my thoughts, feelings, and what I wanted with ease and perhaps even eloquence. And sharing with an employer is even more challenging—yet I was able to overcome my fears. Here’s what happened.
I was working for a person who I will call Ann to preserve her privacy. Ann employs me regularly to do odd jobs including organizing, cleaning and gardening. She gets energy from working with a person like myself who doesn’t judge her and is willing to go with her flow of what she wants done. We have become friends over the years having had hours of opportunity to share conversations as we worked together. . We’ve socialized at times with my daughter Mahriyanna, who really enjoys being with Ann as well.
Ann often has long bouts of depression that she does not hide from me. She doesn’t want to burden me, so we try to talk about topics which interest us both, including stories about our lives and our love for nature.
Today I was working for her and I offered to lend her a video I had just seen called TO SAVE A LIFE. An amazingly inspiring story about a teenager who realizes the hard way that being the most popular high school athletic star is empty when an old friend who he had rejected because he wasn’t “cool” commits suicide. Learning to rely on Jesus in a way that was not religious but rather heart centered was the solution to his problem with help from a compassionate youth pastor and a receptive youth group.
I really wanted Ann to be at least open to seeing a movie that inspired me, but knowing how against Christianity she was, I wanted her to know that this did have a Christian message. She immediately rejected my offer when I mentioned this fact. Feeling somewhat hurt and disappointed, we proceeded to do a painting job where we had ample time to talk. But I didn’t want to talk because of my uncomfortable feelings, and I didn’t initiate any conversation as I usually did. When she talked, I responded as briefly as I could.
As we painted, I prayed that I could say words that were both honest and connecting. I valued her friendship as well as the money I received from our interchange. Certainly I didn’t want her to decide to fire me, yet I realized that sharing my truth in a loving way was more important than money.
I started sharing with her more about why I enjoyed TO SAVE A LIFE so much, and mentioned that even though it had a Christian message, it was still very inspiring and I hoped that she might be open to watching it. As the conversation carried on, I prayed for more guidance because we were starting to get into the muddy waters of talking about the pros and cons of Christian life.
At first I defended my faith by suggesting that perhaps she had met Christians who did not have a handle on the truth. The natural answer is that even though she had a very toxic experience with Christianity growing up—she just doesn’t believe the bible so anything I had to say about Jesus was invalid.
Not wanting to get into a discourse on how I have over the past nine years studied both sides of whether the bible was true and thus try to prove that the bible was a book that could be relied upon, I decided to listen. Even after using Nonviolent Communication principles as taught by Marshall Rosenberg for the past twenty one years, it has been hard for me to listen empathically to people who seemed so dogmatic their views. This time was no exception. But I knew with all my heart that if I just tried to persuade her that I was right, Ann would just get more upset.
After reflecting back to her what she was saying for a few minutes, she came up with the bottom line. “I don’t like to talk about this because it makes me angry,” she said vehemently. “I don’t like to talk about past hurts in my relationships because they make me angry as well.”
When I heard that statement, I knew without a doubt that it was time for me to share my truth in love with her. So weird—after knowing her for about four years and having perhaps over a hundred hours of conversations with her and many interactions—I hadn’t realized that she abhorred being angry. I listened a few more minutes about her anger.
Then I said, “Well, I think that it would be beneficial for you to express your anger,” I said firmly and lovingly. The words just flowed out and I felt inspired. I even had chills go up and down my spine when I said, “I haven’t been able to share this with you up until now because I have been afraid to be honest. But I really think that your depression comes from you being terrified of your anger.”
As we talked, I remembered how many times I had presented an idea to Ann which she initially rejected. Even though I was willing to follow her guidance in working, I did offer suggestions at times about how I think something could be done more efficiently. 99% of the time she would resist. But 99% of the time she would then tell me, “you were right.”
I shared with her that I didn’t have a need to convince her that Jesus was the only way—but I did believe that unless she dealt with her anger issues, she would never be able to be open to truth. I remembered a word picture that was very powerful and shared with her, “Bitterness is like the acid in a container. The acid just destroys the container. Bitterness doesn’t hurt the person you are angry with –but it hurts you.”
I was surprised and delighted when Ann said that just yesterday she had thought about getting a punching bag. I shared with her a technique called the Learning Letter by John Gray. I remembered I had his book; a classic called WHAT YOU CAN FEEL YOU CAN HEAL.”
I didn’t deliver a really long lecture—but I have such a conviction about the destructive power of anger. So I said gently, “I really care about you. You are a strong, kind person who has really blessed my life in so many ways. I love you. (yes, I actually said that!My friend Jordan who is working with me to start the Kindness Alliance taught me how to share that with people other than my family) I only want the best for you.” I hugged her (we rarely hug) and I felt totally at ease with my expression of both firmness and affection.
We were done with work by this time. Ann said she would think about what I said. I told her, “If you want to borrow the book, just let me know.”
We left with very good feelings. Even if she was to come back to me and say, “You’re fired.” Or never call me for work again. I would be content. But I really don’t think she is the kind of person who would do that.
I felt so grateful to have shared my truth in love with the help of my friends—Jesus, Abba Father God, and the Holy Spirit. Without them I believe that I would have just felt resentful because Ann was so ready to reject my offering of what I thought was a very inspiring gift—the film TO SAVE A LIFE. Even if I could have offered the psychological solution of doing anger work, the solution would have been somewhat beneficial, but not getting to the core cause. I had done anger work for 20 years which helped me stay sane, but never lead me to the peace I yearned for. Only having an intimate relationship with Jesus gave me the deep abiding peace that I yearned for. (Yes, sometimes I lose my peace—but more and more it is consistent as I learn to trust my Abba father).
I hope and pray that Ann will work through her anger, and that she will be clear about what the truth is. After all, there has to be an absolute truth, because even the statement there is no absolute truth—all truth is relative—is an absolute truth. And I yearn for the time when Jesus shines through my life so powerfully that people will be receptive—that people might say, “I want what Patricia has.” To be able to invite people to a fellowship of Jesus followers who are totally non-judgmental and being Jesus hands and feet who have the time and ability to really help hurting people would also be awesome. Maybe then could my friends and strangers I meet be willing to at least be open to the amazing truth that we have a creator God who loves us so much and only wants the best for us. That Jesus came to create a way for us to connect with God in an intimate way so that we could live a sinless life. That the Holy Spirit, if we invite Jesus in to our heart, can live inside us and help us live an abundant life beyond our wildest dreams right hear and now. I hope people who have been resistant to Jesus will find enough proof that giving their lives to Jesus is the way to freedom, joy and salvation—that they will give Him a try, like I did reluctantly eight years ago.
Sharing my faith. Telling the truth in love. Being willing to take the risk of losing work and friendship for the sake of Jesus and the highest good of the person I am sharing with. . Now that’s what I call fulfilling! And even kind.
I hope this sharing has been beneficial to you…your comments are very welcome.