From one generation to the next: advice from my mom

Long ago, when I was a middle-school student, I disliked a girl in my class.

“Krista” was sweet, kind, and genuine. She had a transparency to her that was unusual in my Southern “Christian” upbringing.

I think she revealed my own shortcomings to me. When I was around her, I didn’t seem so “nice and sweet.” She did.

And that was why I didn’t like her.

Though we had been friends, I suddenly found myself annoyed by all kinds of things I’d never before noticed. In my head I judged her clothes, the way she walked, even the way she looked. I could hear my inner voice making catty comments about her. I don’t ever remember saying any of this out loud, but my attitude manifested itself through my withdrawal. I answered her questions with one-word answers. I didn’t encourage conversation. I kept a blank face when we talked.

I knew what I was doing was wrong.

But I tried my hardest to shift blame.

I told myself that her sweetness was too “over the top” to be real, that my critical spirit was simply my ability to see through her.

I almost convinced myself.

But I didn’t fool my mom.

I was planning a party, and my mom noticed “Krista’s” name wasn’t on the list. “Why not?” she asked.

I said something like, “She’s just kind of annoying, Mom.”

She raised her eyebrows. I went on.

“Like, she doesn’t get anybody’s jokes.”

The eyebrows went higher.

“Well, you know how it is when some people…”

I don’t remember what all I said.

But my mother’s words are clear in my memory. “There’s no good reason for you not to like her, and I’m not going to listen to you talk about her. But I am going to give you some advice: Pray for her. It’s really hard to keep a hard spirit toward someone when you’re praying for them, especially when the problem is in you and not in them.”

That was all she said, but she might as well have delivered a sermon on the first part of Matthew 7.

A few weeks ago, one of my kids was trying to explain away a jealous attitude and mean behavior by pointing the finger at the other person. (I just “love” how I can see my own faults so clearly in my children!)

I interrupted the rather clever blame shifting.

“Sorry, kiddo. I think the problem here is in your own heart.” (I’m a little more blunt—and way less “Southern”—than my mother.)

My child’s eyes went round with shock at my lack of sympathy.

“It’s pretty easy for me to recognize it because I struggle with the same issue. I don’t want you to lie to yourself. Nothing will change until you admit the truth.”

The eyes narrowed then. “Other mothers would be nicer about it.”

I grinned then. “Well, God didn’t give you a different mother. He gave you me.” I suddenly remembered my own story. “Your Mama D told me the same thing once.” (Okay, maybe she was a little nicer about it, but it was kinda/sorta the same.)

That perked the interest, so I told about “Krista.”

And my mother’s words were just as wise and powerful now as they were then.

Thanks again, Mom.

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