Thursday, October 9, 2008

A Painful Lesson

I've had this entry swirling around in my head for a couple of days now, and I've been waiting for my thoughts to settle down into something coherent. Maybe writing about my experience will help me make sense of it.

Earlier this week, a kind woman commented on my post about Ethan's dinosaur impression. In that post--which I've since removed--I made a thoughtless comment that Ethan looked like a child with special needs. I had also described the way he smelled like pee and wore ill-fitting clothes because of a nap-time accident. To me, it was a hilarious story, and I didn't realize that I had basically made it sound as if I equated special needs children with smelling like urine and wearing shabby clothes.

The woman who commented told me that she has a son with special needs, and my comments were very hurtful. She said she could tell from my tone that I was not trying to be hateful, but she wanted me to know that the story could be offensive.

I was devastated. The last thing I want to do with my writing is hurt someone. There were two things that really hurt:
  • Her words were true. I couldn't believe I had been so insensitive. I couldn't believe that I, a person who wears her heart on her sleeve, could wound someone else so casually with my words. If her words had not been true, or if she had said them in a hateful way, I could have shrugged it off. But it hurt so much because it was true.
  • My pride was wounded. I didn't want other people to think of me as a cruel or insensitive person.
My initial response was to think, "Who am I kidding? What made me think I had something worthwhile to share on this blog?" But I knew that wasn't right. I have a lot of stories to share, stories that can make people laugh and love and learn (I hope). I have stories that have given me hope, and my prayer is that they could bring hope to others. So I'm not going to be silent.

I immediately commented on this stranger's blog to tell her how sorry I was to have hurt her, and I told her I would remove the offensive material right away.

I had to pray about this quite a lot because my heart just kept hurting, even after I'd apologized, talked it over with a dear friend and with my husband (also a dear friend, incidentally), and asked God's forgiveness. I just felt I needed to beat myself up about this, which is so typical for me.

Why am I so hard on myself? Why is it so easy for me to extend grace to others, but not to myself? Maybe it's because I'm such a perfectionist. Believe me, I want to be free of that, but I haven't learned how yet.

In any case, I prayed that God would use this experience to teach me, to change my heart, to help me see these special children (and adults) through his eyes. I also prayed that he would comfort this woman, if she was still hurting. And he has already answered! The same woman responded to my comments on her blog. Ironically, she was feeling down about having hurt me with her comment. I told her again that I was thankful that she had given me honest feedback. I felt she had spoken the truth in love, to use a cliche.

Since then, I have been enjoying her blog, in which she shares her experiences with her children--including Shawn, a beautiful toddler who has Down Syndrome. Now I can see a special needs child through her eyes, and my heart is already changing. I find that we actually have quite a bit in common: our love for writing, our faith in Christ, our sense of humor, our desire to shelter our children from pain.

I think it's amazing how God works. He can use my mistake to connect me with someone who can teach me something valuable. This is Romans 8:28 (another one of my memory passages) in action!
"And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."
How awesome is that? Even the painful things, even the mistakes, even the sins (!), can somehow be worked for my ultimate good.

I wish I could believe that I will never hurt someone that way again, but I know that I will hurt and be hurt over and over again. I just pray God keeps teaching me to see through his eyes and love with his heart. And I pray I learn to let go of my need to "earn" my forgiveness; grace is a gift, and there is nothing I could ever do to deserve it!


Melissa Irwin said...

God has surely used this to teach me too.....and I just cannot tell you how grateful I am that in my weakness, I encountered you. I wish there were more examples of grace in this world. You've quickly become someone I love in my heart. Your journey is a beautiful one and I will continue to follow....and I promise I'll never fuss at you again! love, melissa

Sarah said...

Thank you, Melissa. I think I have made my first online friend!

Melissa Irwin said...

yes, count me in, friend.


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