“No! I told him I wasn’t coming!”
The woman answering her cell phone was talking way loud. I was five rows back on the train and the noise disrupted my conversation with Pam.
“I don’t care—I’m not going!”
Now the whole car was awkwardly silent, forcibly listening.
A young man across the aisle from the caller put his finger to his lips. “You want to take that out there?” he said, pointing with his head to the door. She scowled as if he had no business talking to her. “You’re too loud,” he said calmly, then went back to his reading.
“I’m too loud. Really. Because you can’t sleep?”
“No,” he said politely, “it’s for us”—he gestured toward the passengers, “for them.”
She sighed dramatically. To the person on the other end of the line she said, “This guy says I’m too loud. Whatever . . . .”
Why is it so hard for us to hear the truth?
I was peeved with the loud lady, yet I was embarrassed for her. The whole car was against her. Everyone was speaking through the calm young man who said what needed to be said. He spoke the truth. Why is it so hard to hear the truth about ourselves? I know that impulse in myself—to come immediately and unfailingly to my own defense. It’s natural enough. We feel hurt, stung, embarrassed. What’s being said does not line up with the image we have of ourselves. And of course that image is mostly a cultivated delusion. We can see it so clearly in others! But in ourselves, not so much.
If you haven’t yet made a New Year’s resolution, it’s not too late. Resolve this year to receive the truth—as far as God gives you the grace to receive it. Because, as Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32). It is those hard-to-hear truths that break us through to freedom. But it’s hard! Yet those who can hear what they do not want to hear are blessed, wise, capable of change and growth. I love that line from Franz Kafka: “In the struggle between yourself and the world, second the world.”
This is why Jesus insisted, “love your enemies.” That is not some romantic call to feel kindly toward our adversaries. What Jesus means is: if it’s the truth you’re seeking, only your enemy can speak it (that is, unless you have some incredibly powerful friends, the likes of which most of us never have).
I wish you a free 2012! May you know the truth that always sets you free. (So get busy creating your enemy list. You and I have a lot of loving to do.)