Friday, March 16, 2007

Two Sides of the Same Story

There is a verse in Prov. 18:17 that says ”The first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbor comes and examines him”. In other words ,the first story you hear sounds believable until you hear the other side.
How true !!

Years ago when I had a dressmaking business, I built up my clientele through word of mouth which meant that all my customers were somehow connected to one another. Just as people tend to confide in their hairdresser they also confide in their seamstress and so I would hear many personal stories.
I remember one story in particular that totally won my sympathy and I would have sworn in court for the validity of this woman’s story. Then one day I listened to another woman pour out her heart and again I had no doubt as to her sincerity, until suddenly something she said began to sound familiar and I realized that both these women were telling the same story but OH! how different the perspectives were!!
I resolved that from that day on that I would be careful to withhold my judgment until I had heard both sides of a story.

No lesson is ever learned perfectly, however, as I found out this week-end when I was reminded of how easy it is to misjudge.
We live in a gated community where visitor parking is limited and when we invite people over, parking is a problem – more so for us because our garage was converted into a sewing room and workshop by previous owners and our two vehicles are parked on our driveway. If our visitors park on the side of the street it makes it difficult for our neighbours to get in and out, as our complex streets are a little narrower than the public ones.
On Sunday we had our kids and another couple come over. It was just going to be for a short time so we thought it would be OK to park on the street. When our kids got out of their car, our neighbour “Bob” knocked on the window , gesturing and pointing at their car. Vic parked our car behind theirs and again he knocked on his window, gesturing and pointing, and waving his hand. Not wanting to cause problems Vic moved our car to the top of the complex in a visitor’s space. When he came back into the house, he told me that the neighbours were really upset about the cars. For the rest of the day I had a sick feeling in my stomach, wishing that we hadn’t tried to park the extra cars on the street. Vic and I talked about what we could do to make it up to our neighbours, and decided we would apologize the next day with a peace offering like a bottle of wine or flowers.

The next day I met “Joy”, my neighbour lady at the complex gate. It just so happened the gate wasn’t working and we both were stuck outside. At the first opportunity I said, “I’m so sorry about the cars yesterday…It was just going to be for a few minutes so we parked where we shouldn’t have.”
She started to laugh and told HER side of the story. They had seen our guests arriving and realizing we had a problem, Bob was simply indicating to us that we should use THEIR driveway to park on. Joy had said to Bob, “I don’t think Vic understands what you are trying to say !” He had even run outside to tell Vic but he was already moving our car and didn’t see him.
We had a good laugh about it and decided that next time Joy and I would do the communicating!!

So that situation ended happily but two days later we experienced another situation that left us feeling sick. We were just driving along in the midst of traffic in a busy section of town, when a vehicle pulled up in the lane beside us , honking, gesturing, screaming and swearing- a young man having a road rage tantrum. We have no idea why. We had not changed lanes or cut him off and we were behind other traffic so had no control over our speed. A couple of blocks later he pulled up again on the other side of us and continued raging. We did not react and thankfully, nothing happened … but I wonder.... What would his side of the story be??

I Cor. 13 is the well known love chapter. In verse 5 it says that love “does not behave rudely, does not seek its own is not provoked , thinks no evil.” That is sometimes easier said than done – especially in ‘reactions’.
It is so easy to judge by appearances or by how we are affected emotionally in a given situation. But if we can remember to just take a step back before we jump to conclusions and react; if we consider what the other person’s side of the story might be, we would avoid so much trouble. How many wars – between friends, spouses, family members, neighbours, nations – have been started by a simple misunderstanding?
Even if someone’s actions or words seem to be hurtful, our REACTION does not have to be.
How often we can stop the beginning of a world war by living out the wise advice offered in
Prov. 15:1, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”


Lovella ♥ said...

OK this story, everyone can relate to. Who has not experienced the desire to tell their side of the story?
So often we encounter misunderstandings in life, sadly that is reality. How we respond is what matters, something I need to work on too.
I think your personal experience devotionals are my favorite.

Demara said...

Yes Julie that is so true...soft answers? hard to do with Jeff sometimes...but I do need to work on it. Thanks for the authenticity of you and Vic's lives here!