Recently my family and I experienced our first ever professional family photo shoot. Despite the moaning and groaning from my children about having to stand still and smile (over and over), the results of our session in a lovely park downtown were beautiful.
For the pictures, we positioned ourselves at different places around the park–on a tree branch, at a couple of different bridges. The photo shoot took place on Valentine’s Day, so there were other people visiting the park then, too: couples walking hand in hand or having a picnic; several people walked their dogs. One man in particular walked his pair of dogs close to us.
I’d followed our photographer to look at one bridge as a potential spot for photos, while Mike stayed with our boys down a hill. The man walking his pair of dogs–both a size and breed that intimidate me; I’ve been chased by dogs more than once, and I am wary of ones I don’t know–came near to where I was standing on the bridge. I walked around the side of the bridge, attempting to move out of his way. He continued walking in my direction. I moved again, explaining that I was trying to give him room. He smiled and said, “They’re harmless.”
The dogs neither looked nor felt harmless to me, and I said–with a chuckle in my voice–“They don’t look so to me.”
The man, with his dogs and girlfriend, finished crossing the short bridge. As they climbed the stone steps to get to the next pathway around the park, he tossed over his shoulder, “You can f*ck them if you want to–they will f*ck a b*tch.”
I saw our photographer’s face freeze. What did he say? I asked in disbelief. She just shook her head and responded, Rude.
By this time, the couple with their dogs had moved on. My family didn’t hear this exchange. We continued with our photo shoot. But I genuinely wanted to go home and cry. I hurt–quite literally hurt–from the inside out. I felt hurt start near my solar plexus and radiate all the way to the ends of my fingers. I felt gross and embarrassed. I worried that the strain would show on my face in our photos.
I also began feeling shame. Even remorse. My inner critic kicked in…
Me: What he said to me is disgusting and hurtful!
Inner critic: Maybe you deserved it. Some of it must be your fault, too. Maybe you brought it on.
Me: No matter what he thought about me or my opinion of his dogs, he didn’t have the right to say that. Even if he thought I was being rude, he took it too far.
Inner critic: Well, maybe you’d be better off if you just didn’t speak. Just didn’t say ANYTHING. Why DO you even open your mouth?
Me: That’s not how I choose to live. I am a child of God, so I have the right to be at peace with who I am and who I am becoming.
Inner critic: Yeah, right! At peace with who YOU are?! There’s no reason for you to feel satisfied with who you are. Maybe one day; maybe when you’re “better.” But not now.
This internal battle continued into the evening. By the next morning, I had mostly settled the issue–I did NOT deserve his words. Taking a walk the next day, I began to pray (I find praying while walking on my own to be a great means of “active prayer.”) And I realized–I need to forgive this man. Now that I was able to recognize he was at fault for HIS words–and that I was not responsible for HIS words–God showed me I needed to forgive him.
I chose by faith to forgive this man. I chose by faith–believing it was right, true, and obedient to God–to release him in my heart from any punishment I wanted to bring on him. To surrender any desire to make him pay. Even to pray FOR him.
Is there somebody who has hurt you whom you need to forgive, but you don’t realize it because you’re blaming yourself? I believe God will show you if you ask Him. Our inner critic–which might just be the voice of the Enemy of God’s children–won’t tell us the truth.Don’t listen to it; listen to God’s Word about you instead.