I miss my grandma. She made fried pork chops and collard greens like no one else, she had this habit of happily whistling to herself while she worked, and she had a full library of adages, some of which I haven’t heard again since she spoke them. I can recall two she spoke often enough that they stuck with me forever. In fact, a fear of fowl and tortoises remain. Of ducks, she was fond of instructing, “watch out! They’ll bite a plug out of you!” And of snapping turtles she frequently stated, “once they latch on, they won’t let go till it thunders.”
I don’t know about you, but I’ve met a lot of ducks and turtles in my life. And I’m not talking about those in the animal kingdom. Unless you want to include Homo sapiens in the animal kingdom. I will admit I’ve been known to act like an animal a time or two, or three. I’ve certainly seen animalistic behavior among my peers, and you could say scrolling through the comment sections of Facebook lately particularly since Nike featured Colin Kaepernick in their new ad — has been similar to watching a wildlife documentary on Discovery. The one where the lions kill the gazelle or the gator pulls a wildebeest into the water. All I know is I’ve seen a lot of biting plugs outta people, and even more clamped down, not letting go till it thunders.
There’s right and there’s wrong. There’s opinions, lies, and truth. There’s standing up boldly for what you know to be noble and true, and then there’s just clamping down stubbornly because you don’t want to admit you’re wrong. This happens on both sides. Then there’s the fact that there even has to be sides. There’s the fact that the evil of this world wants to push us to our respective sides, to create a larger divide, a rift so deep that in the end folks hardly even recall why they’re standing so firmly to the right or to the left. They just know they won’t let go till it thunders. Maybe not even then.
Yesterday I was riding to a State Park with my husband for a few days away. We had already visited the park before, and we knew how to get there from where we were living, but since we had stopped by the grocery store first we decided to get the assistance of Google Maps to find our turn. My husband just wanted a head’s up to the turn he knew was up the road, but when I opened the navigation app I saw a route that was faster. That was the one I chose, and it ended up taking us a new way. As we drove along and I pointed out cool scenery I realized my spouse was sullen and not responding. My husband always gets quiet when he’s mad, and I knew the silent treatment I was experiencing was because he was angry about something. I tried the “what’s wrong,” to which he replied, “nothing,” and that response just wanted to make me mad enough to retaliate. I mean, what’s the best response to a silent treatment? Reciprocated sullen silence; am I right?!
I realized pretty quickly that he was upset because I had taken him a different route than the one he knew. What a ridiculous reason to be upset! I thought. I couldn’t understand why he was angry about something so trivial, and it bothered me even more that he responded by being sullen and silent. Ugh! He was so wrong!
Sometimes who’s wrong and who’s right isn’t what’s most important. Sometimes what’s more important than being right is relationship. In a marriage, if you’re always wanting to be right you’re in for a world of struggle. It’s going to be a hard road always striving to win every argument. A lot of the time the biggest and most noble thing you can do for a relationship is [to] admit where you’re wrong. It’s about seeing where you fall short, letting in the light by removing the own plank from your eye, walking in the shoes of the other party, and responding in love.
You wouldn’t believe what I did. Even though I felt like my husband was being silly I decided to try and see things from his perspective. For him, knowing where he was at was important. Knowing how to get somewhere in his own accord meant something to him. While it wasn’t my thing, it was his. So I apologized first. I told him I didn’t realize how important it was to him to go the way he already knew. A part of me resisted in apologizing for something I didn’t think I had intentionally done wrong, but the other part of me knew what was important and what was not. Being right about Google Maps wouldn’t mean a thing in the longevity of our marriage. In fact, it meant nothing. How I responded to conflict was what mattered in the long run. Of note, he apologized too, and we had a wonderful day thereafter.
I’m not daft enough to assume any analogy I derive can be adequate for real-life problems in a society that has big open wounds and even bigger past hurts. I can’t compare apples to oranges, after all, but I think we can all ask ourselves the question I did yesterday.
When in conflict consider what’s most important.
Is it being right?
Or is it relationship?
Is it what side of the fence you sit in conflict?
Or is it your response to conflict?
Is your response one of love?
Is it one that will mend relationships, or cause further divide?
When you look at the argument for which you’re fighting and defending, are you biting a plug out of someone? Are you stubbornly clamped down, and not letting go till it thunders? Maybe not even then?
For what purpose? What’s the point of being right if you have nothing to show for it but broken relationships? What’s the point of being right if it only serves to widen the gap between others? No one ever died from swallowing their pride, laying down an argument that wouldn’t save the world, or being kind to those who think on matters different than yourself.
Or you could just remain clamped down. But I wonder, by the time it thunders, what damage will have already been done?