Sunday, July 17, 2005

Broken Watch Crystal

Several months ago a dropped my watch on a ceramic tile floor. The crystal cracked through the middle. Just like that and just that fast. The imagery left an impact. Several days later I wrote some thoughts in my journal. Today I reread them and they seem especially poignant given my week.

I had a difficult confrontation with a team member. This person seems to know exactly how to push my buttons. I recognized the moment I should have disengaged, but of course “I was right” and “they were wrong”. I couldn’t possibly back down and cede ground, and neither could they.

Except that when I left the conversation I felt terrible; humiliation mixed with wounded pride ~ a Molotov cocktail ~ poisonous, toxic, explosive. The more I thought about the conversation the more bitter I got. I hate admitting this, but I caught myself thinking about ways to get even ~ “even” meaning ways to exact revenge. Luckily, my conscience spoke loud enough that I backed off. My plans were a bad idea, going nowhere but sewing bad seed.

Anyway, this morning I spent some time thinking, meditating, and confessing. “What exactly is driving this vengeful attitude resembling everything except what my faith teaches?” I happened to stumble on Matthew 7:1-5, the famous “first remove the plank from your own eye, so you can have clear vision to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

After wrestling with the message for awhile, I’m coming to accept that perhaps this plank is a “critical spirit”. I hate these words. I’ve struggled my entire life with the tape, “If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all.” (Though I've come to recognize that this tape is denial and serves only to maintain a false peace.)

I think a critical spirit is something entirely different. Over the last year I’ve seen a harsh judgmental attitude develop within me; a prickliness of sorts. It comes out toward those I don’t trust, those I disagree with, and those who have hurt me in the past. It’s those people I find most difficult to love.

When I dropped my watch I felt sorrow not because of the broken watch, but something in the imagery made me sad. As soon as the watch fell from my hand I knew the crystal would break. Sadness came when I thought about the hard and unforgiving tile. I don’t want to be hard like that.

I don't want to be clean and well-kept on the outside, but hard as a rock on the inside. But it seems these days when someone accidentally (or purposefully) “crashes” into my life they find a hard reception. I don’t receive them gently. I don’t think I’m suggesting an attitude of oblivious denial, but maybe a little bit of give. I don't know. I wonder if this is part of extending mercy to people. Frederick Dale Bruner wrote the following that I really liked.

In every sense Jesus’ will is clear: “I want mercy and not sacrifice”
(Matt 9:13; 12:7), “I want the heart that overlooks foibles,
not the eagle-eyed vision that sees everything wrong."
- Frederick Dale Bruner

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
- Jesus of Nazareth

3 comments:

Monk-in-Training said...

Small, I join with you in recognising myself in your thoughts. Sometimes the hardest moment is to pray for those who irritate us. Here is a selection from my Noonday prayers you might like.

For our enemies and those who wish us harm, and for all whom we have injured or offended, we pray to you, O Lord.

Lord, have mercy.

Visual-Voice said...

I know how you feel. I think it partly has to do with patience... both with people who irritate us, and with ourselves. I've been struggling with the hard edges of myself lately too... where's my file?

be gentle with yourself.

SmallGlimpses said...

Monk...thanks for your comment and encouragement. Praying for our enemies seems counter intuitive, yet I know each prayer uttered seems like water on a fire.

Vis Voice...thanks also for your reminder to be gentle with myself. I forget about this, even though these are words I often say to others as well. The conversation was hard enough, but the after effects and ruminations for the following days took a toll.