"Real love amounts to withholding the truth, even when you're offered the perfect opportunity to hurt someones feelings."
I read this quote today in a David Sedaris book. Not a usual source for spiritual inspiration, in fact, I usually just read his books looking for a cheap thrill. It's like a perfectly written gossip book except I feel classier reading it because it is in a bound book and not a People magazine; and so with dignity I go there to find out all the entertaining dirt on his parents, brother, sisters, and childhood. I'm not even sure what David Sedaris looks like, nor do I know his family, but he makes me laugh, and today he made me think.
Something about that line. I couldn't shake it and it kept repeating over and over again in my head. This is usually how God talks to me. I read or hear something, I see something in the world around me or watch a situation unfold before my eyes, and slowly the quiet whisper of God works his way into my soul and uses whatever I have seen or heard to speak to me. God is obtrusive in my thought life, even when I am just simply trying to read my celebrity gossip.
I guess the whisper went something like this. The whisper, God’s voice, is in quotations:
“Brilliant and profound thought.” Yeah. Agreed.
“There are a lot of times you could really hurt people with your words.”
Like with Ryan last night. Sometimes I feel like the girl who is perfecting cheap shots when they are offered to me.
“Yeah. You sort of do that sometimes. But imagine what grace would look like. It would mean that even if you knew people’s faults and weaknesses that you would not always say them. That you would be kind, you would hold your tongue, you would not always point out the truth or the obvious, even if you were offered the perfect opportunity to point those things out, because grace isn’t about right and wrong. Sometimes grace is not saying what could easily be said.”
At this point I thought maybe the whisper of God was turning into an ugly accusation! And then I backtracked and started thinking about the quote again. And just as quickly as it started, the conversation, the whisper, ended.
As brief a moment with God as it was, it has stuck with me all day. What does grace look like? It has many forms. Many shapes. And comes in many sizes. For me one way that I can exhibit grace a little better is withholding the truth, the mean and ugly truth, even when I am given a perfectly good opportunity to give it.
I have single handedly had the worst customer service experiences of my life this week!!! We literally spent over an hour in a lobby yesterday trying to get hotel rooms checked in. At the end of the whole process we ended up with four keys to the same room. They double booked the room. We came down to get another room, and with a profuse apology we were assigned another place to stay…when we got to the new floor and opened the door there was someone’s stuff in the room and the shower was going!!! Agghhhh. I could have seen a stranger, probably some old guy, naked and getting out the shower. I went back downstairs, we got another key, another room, and believe it or not, walked into another room full of people’s stuff! At this point I considered petty theft. I could’ve walked out with anything.
Back to the lobby for the third time we finally got assigned a room that worked. This morning upon leaving we had three tickets on the car. Apparently the parking lot they told us to park in wasn’t a legal place to park in, even though they promised us it was and told us we did not need a parking pass. I went back inside…and…jeez, I feel like I am in confession right now, but I was not gracious.
They clearly knew their mistakes. The truth was, the service had been awful all the way around. But did me pointing this out make the situation any better? Did me taking advantage of this perfect opportunity to use the truth to hurt someone do any good? Probably not. I just felt guilty for losing my cool. And even more guilty when I read the book an hour later and realized I blew an opportunity to be graceful, to chose to be graceful, when I did not have to.
That is what God whispered to me today as I was recovering from the bad hotel lobby experience and reading my gossip novel. He chooses to withhold the truth of our dirty and gross condition when he does not have to. He chooses to show grace when he could easily show anger or disappointment, when he could easily point out my flaws and the certain truths about me. But he does not. He chooses to be graceful. He chooses to show me grace. And to me, that is real love.
"Grace is God himself, his loving energy at work within his church and within our souls." Evelyn Underhill (1875-1941)