Thursday, December 17, 2015

Beneath The Surface

To protect his privacy, I'll call him "Bart".

Years ago, I was asked to mentor and work with a young man.  Very quickly, I realized this was going to be a challenge.  "Bart" was mostly disengaged and wanted nothing to do with the planned activities.  Then, at other times, he was difficult, hostile, and rude.  I found myself growing frustrated with him.

One day, I was discussing the situation with a lady I knew.  After telling her about my challenges with "Bart", she looked at me, assured me that she understood my aggravation, and said this:  "He's had a hard home life.  For a while he was sexually abused by his dad, who is now in prison.  And his mother has her own problems which means he has somewhat had to raise himself.  Simply put, he has grown up in the midst of real adversity."

That changed how I felt about the situation.  Learning this information helped me be more patient, understanding, and compassionate.  From that point on, my attitude about the situation was different. I began to show him more grace, and we started getting along much better.

In dealing with people, I've learned there's a lot beneath the surface.  Folks that you and I interact with are like icebergs floating at sea.  We see only the tip of who they are and what they do.  But underneath, there is a lot more to them.  Experiences, influences, and circumstances do affect how they think, what they do, and where they go in life.

When it comes to people who are difficult or bothersome, let's keep in mind they may be acting out of pain.  It's possible they've been through some tough stuff that we know nothing about.  There could be problems in their private world that affect their public life.  Do their unseen issues excuse their misbehavior or failure?  No.  But they can influence and explain it.

Just remember that everyone you see has a private life.  They deal with things beneath the surface that are unseen and unknown to you and others.  Knowing this, be patient, show them grace, and lift them up in prayer when they act in a way that doesn't agree with you.  And when you do this, they just might respond favorably to your compassion.  Who knows?  You might make a friend and a difference in the process.

Yep, when it comes to people, there really is a lot beneath the surface.

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