Nothing was going right for Marissa. It started when she overslept, which was because she’d been checking social media in bed the night before, and had fallen asleep with her phone still in her hand. Of course, she’d tossed and turned all night and the phone, which also served as her alarm clock, had gotten lost in the jumble of covers and pillows and was effectively muted to the degree that she didn’t hear it when the wake-up alarm sounded. So, waking an hour late, she’d stumbled to the closet in last night’s hair and make-up only to find that she’d worn her last clean suit the day before. Groaning, she rummaged through the hamper trying to find the least wrinkled slacks and blouse she could.
Thirty minutes later, briefcase in hand, purse strap sliding off her shoulder, she climbed onto the train and settled in for her commute. As she sipped coffee from her travel mug she pulled up the calendar on her phone and browsed through the day’s agenda. And there it was: 10 a.m. – Mr. Nelson – her most prestigious and most contentious client. Her presentation wasn’t quite ready, but she should still have time to add the finishing touches before he arrived.
As the train slowed to a stop, she hurried out and began walking the two short blocks to her office, hoping she could slip in unnoticed. Other commuters filled the sidewalk, rushing by her in every direction. Up ahead, a young mom was kneeling, straightening her child’s jacket. The man in front of Marissa stopped short at the last moment to avoid them and Marissa plowed into him, crushing her travel mug and spilling now-lukewarm coffee over both of them.
“Watch where you’re going, you dumb broad,” the man snarled.
“I’m sorry,” Marissa apologized, but he was already gone, lost in the crowd.
Pigeons fluttered about and car horns honked as she made her way on, the front of her blouse stained and uncomfortably damp. Finally, she reached her building and pushed through the revolving door and into the foyer.
“Oh, Marissa, there you are,” the secretary drawled, giving her a disapproving look. “Mr. Addison wants to see you right away, and he’s in a bad mood.” The secretary flicked her eyes towards the boss’s office door.
Groaning, Marissa went to the door and knocked tentatively. She could hear heated voices coming from behind the closed door, and she cringed. It sounded like an argument.
“Marissa, is that you?” Mr. Addison’s voice boomed. “Get in here.”
Marissa opened the office door and stepped inside. Mr. Nelson was there, cheeks flushed, chest heaving. Mr. Addison looked equally flustered. The two men were squared off over the boss’s desk; there were papers strewn everywhere. It looked like they were about to come to blows.
Mr. Nelson turned, seeing her enter, and said, “Finally. Where have you been? Would you please tell him that my picture must be on the flyer?”
“We’re promoting the charity,” Mr. Addison thundered, “not you!” He pounded the desk for emphasis.
“Well,” Mr. Nelson said, insulted, “without my contributions there would not BE a charity.” He pulled his handkerchief from his pocket and mopped the sweat from his brow. “Tell him Marissa.”
She looked helplessly from one to the other, not sure what to do.
There’s a lot going on in this story at this point, and everyone has what they feel is a good cause to be offended. This situation could easily deteriorate even more, and a lot of souls could be damaged in the process, so let’s look at what’s really going on here. Marissa is attached to her need to please people, and thus gain acceptance. Mr. Nelson is attached to his need to feel important for the “good” that he does, and thus be adored, Mr. Addison is attached to his need to be in control, and thus gain attention.
When we give up the idea of needing, whether it be a need for love, attention, approval, whatever; when we focus instead on God’s love for us and let that meet all our needs; when we let go of the attachment to what other people think of us; THEN WE ARE FREE.
free to live
free to love
free to be light-bearers in this fallen world
When we believe that we deserve something, or are owed something, then it is easy to get attached to the outcome and offended when circumstances (situations, people, people’s actions) fall short of that which we believe we are entitled to.
OFFENSE is a quick vehicle for destroying love and peace, and as logically follows, freedom.
The beauty of Christ’s command to love is that it helps keep us from getting ensnared by offense, and self-pity, and entitlement. It actually frees us from these things because when we are truly loving others there is no time or energy left for being offended or concerned about these other things. They don’t even factor in, or register for us, because we’re in such a different place.
Jesus told us to “love others as ourselves” (Matthew 22:39; Mark 12:31). A big part of that is realizing that we are all fallen, and all imperfect in this life. When our sense of self-worth and acceptance comes from God’s great love for us, and what Jesus did for us, then we are free to forgive what other, fallen, humans do. And we are free to love others. And love is the key to defeating and destroying conflict.
What can you do today to let go and be less conflicted?