A few weeks ago, my family attended our oldest child’s school auction. We purchased horse riding lessons, a birthday day package at an art studio and a one-time house cleaning package complete with a garden hose, gardening gloves and a few flowers. Elated, I couldn’t stop talking about how we got this amazing deal on a one-day cleaning service. Anyone of who follows me knows I’m a mom of three small children, wife to a hardworking man who is gone 50 percent of the time, and I have a full-time job as a magazine editor and well … we are just not immaculate housekeepers. If you are, that’s okay, and if you’re like us, that’s okay, too.
My husband and I aren’t filthy but we are messy and because of our busy lifestyle we could use some help. My husband scheduled for this cleaning lady to show up on a Sunday morning. We were told she and her mother would spend an hour and a half to two hours cleaning the house. We frantically pre-cleaned the house preparing for their arrival. Within minutes of arriving, her and her mother decided that house is too bad of shape and they could only do the two bathrooms and kitchen. We had left some dishes in the sink on a drying rack; she quickly wanted me to help her disperse them to their proper place. No problem, but that somehow escalated into having me wipe down my own table, floorboards and mop my own floors as she commented on things like the age of our appliances (most of which are at least 20 years old) among other things. Questioning my brother’s ability to have a girlfriend as she caught a quick glance of his room downstairs, telling us that we should cut down on going on so many vacations so we can invest in some TLC to our home, and pitying me for the wall and furniture stains, were just some of the ways she made me feel small. No one wants to feel that way, especially in their own home.
I know many people who would have told her to leave immediately. I tried to politely tell her that she didn’t need to do anymore, she could leave but she didn’t take the hints from my husband or myself. When she left, I was furious. I don’t normally go to Facebook or social media to vent but I did – as politely as I could.
But soon after that day, I realized that her comments were from a genuine place of help. She boasted of her experience and her clients. She was passionate about cleaning and organizing and I think in her own way, she thought she was being useful. She thought she was shining down her know-it-all wisdom on us.
It made me wonder how many times I had spoken to someone thinking I knew everything about the subject. I don’t think I have come out and told complete strangers how to spend their money but I know I have felt knowledgeable in a subject and judged others for not knowing as much as I think they should. And then I spend a good amount of time “educating” them.
I wasn’t sure what to do at first, for a few days I was upset about it all, but then it came to me … I decided to do something I hadn’t really done before. I’d forgiven people, sure, and would decide to forgive but not forget. This time, however, I decided to pray for her heart as a way toward forgiving her. Every time I think of her, I pray for her, even now.
I pray that she learn to hold her tongue and to rethink how she speaks to customers or potential ones. And I pray she becomes more professional so she can grow her cleaning business.
I am thankful it was us and not some family barely scraping by that she cleaned. I couldn’t imagine how her words would have stung a family of low-income. Women’s identities are associated with how clean and well-decorated our home is – and her words could have really hurt someone.
So how can we empathize with people who have been rude or made us feel small? They say someone who hurts others, has been hurt. Keep that in mind, the next time someone cuts you off in traffic. Pray for their mind and heart and that they may get to their destination safely. It could be someone frantically trying to push through traffic to get to their father in the hospital. It could be a young mother with a sick child. It could be someone mentally and emotionally exhausted and all they need is to desperately get home. Does that excuse the behavior? No, but no one is perfect. We are all jerks at some point. And what do want to happen when we realize we have been a jerk? We want and need forgiveness, and then we want to clean the slate and move forward. Other people deserve forgiveness, too, not just us.
“Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”
I don’t know about you but the last thing I want in my heart is resentment, toward myself or others. Life is too short for our hearts to be hardened with things we can’t go back in time and change. I don’t know what kind of baggage your carrying around but if you’re carrying a lot, maybe it’s time to unload some of the bricks in your suitcase and fill those new spaces with love, especially with love for yourself.
And so my friend, I’ll just leave you with this:
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another
in love.” Ephesians 4:2
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8