Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32
Over the past 10 years, my mom has been slowly losing her hearing. It started very slightly, but has progressed to the point where she hears about half of what she should, even with her hearing aids.
Until my mom started going through this, I had no idea how difficult life becomes when someone’s hearing starts to go. Phone conversations, watching television, socializing at a restaurant, even going to church are all things that have been affected by my mom’s hearing problem. But, the one thing my mom has had the most trouble with is other people’s insensitivity to her handicap. If someone is in a wheelchair, most people will do whatever they can to accommodate that person. A person who is blind either has a cane or a guide dog and everyone realizes immediately that the person is unable to see. However, there is nothing overtly visible about someone who is hard of hearing. So, people who do not know she has a problem get frustrated with her when she asks them to repeat what they just said. And, people who know about her hearing loss, myself included, sometimes forget and get frustrated with her as well. She has said that sometimes she wants to have a t-shirt printed that says, in BIG letters, I HAVE A HEARING PROBLEM…PLEASE SPEAK SLOWLY AND CLEARLY SO I CAN UNDERSTAND YOU!
This has been a tough thing for her adjust to. But, her situation reminds me that that we all have challenges, losses and handicaps that are not outwardly visible, yet that profoundly affect we relate with others. Think about that person at church or at work who you have to walk on egg-shells around because he is so hyper-sensitive and defensive. But, what if you knew that he grew up in an abusive home, or was married to a spouse that was overly critical and verbally abusive? Or, consider that ultra-needy and way too clingy friend whose feelings are hurt when you cannot be there for her? If you found out that her parents gave her up when she was a child and she grew up in several different foster homes, you might better understand her fear of abandonment.
Now, I’m not saying that we can’t overcome past hurts. It is true that with faith, maturity and effort healing can happen. My point is this…when you are dealing with someone that you find hard to handle, remember that they may very well have a long history of suffering that you can’t see, but that drives their attitudes and behaviors. Ask God to help you be gracious and tolerant towards the people in your life who are hard to love. After all, who better to learn grace from than the One who knows every detail of your heart, both the good and the bad, and was still willing to die in order to secure your eternity with Him?