There Is Great Power In Stepping Back And 'Knowing The Other Person's Story'
By Michael H. Brown
A couple of weeks ago I heard the pastor of a local church talk about the time he wanted to approach one of the parish singers and as gently as possible dissuade her from singing there any longer. She was a good person, a very nice person, he remembered, but she had what could most charitably be described as a grating voice. There were those who complained, and he himself bit his lip every time she belted out the lyrics.
One day this woman approached the priest and asked him over for dinner. The pastor decided it was a golden opportunity to softly break the news to her that perhaps music was not her mission. He had to do something. It was a constant sore thumb.
They had dinner and before he could approach her about her singing, this woman, a widow, explained her story to him. She described how she had been married to a good man, but one who had forbidden her from her great love: singing. He had not allowed her to sing anywhere near him, and perhaps nowhere, period. For years, she had to suppress the great pleasure she took in music. He had died relatively recently, and while she had obviously mourned that loss, at the same time, she told the priest, she had experienced a tremendous sense of release in that she was finally able to sing!
How could the pastor now say a word? How was he now to fire her as a cantor? And he didn't. Now, he knew her story. As it turned out, when the next pastor did fire her, there was such an outpouring of complaints from the congregation that he had to beg her to come back.
Can we say the same? Do we take the time to "know the other person's story"? Do we really understand why those who bother us are the way that they are? Or are we quick to condemn without knowing very much in the way of detail?
When we do know detail, it tends towards understanding, which tends towards love. God knows the detail of every single aspect of our lives, and look at how much He loves!
Lent is a time for introspection, and we have to ask ourselves how often we cast a negative eye on others. When we're critical, we separate ourselves from God. It's when we give up the "self" and seek to serve and understand that we draw close to the Lord and experience the state of well-being that He offers.
As the Bible says, the Lord gives peace to those who are in His favor, and we are in His favor when we love.
Love, life, and light are not separate entities. They are one and the same. If we want one, we have to seek also the others.
I'll get to that one day soon. But back to that church: there's another priest there, an associate pastor, who many felt did the Mass, especially the daily Mass, too slowly. Sometimes, it was forty minutes or more before his weekday Mass ended, setting those who were on the way to work into a bit of a frenzy. He was extremely deliberate and devout and respectful, but the slowness during the liturgy was a source of irritation -- until the other day, when he explained his story.
It seems that when this particular priest was a youngster, he had a bad stutter. For years, his mother helped him with it -- always telling him not to speak too fast. It was when he tried to hurry along, he recalled, that he stuttered.
Now that they "knew his story," how could anyone complain? And how can we ever complain, about anyone, until we know that person's story?
To this day, explained the priest, if he moves along too quickly, the stutter will return.
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