How often do you respond to rudeness with more rudeness?
I know I do it often in my own home more so than to the outside world, but I am definitely no stranger to showing discourtesy to strangers who press it on me first.
I know often in my home when my husband is short with me or my kids are in a bad mood it is easy for me to reflect that attitude right back to them. It’s as if anger, aggravation, and discontent are reflective emotions. When we have negativity pressed upon us it is easy to hold a mirror up and shine those emotions right back to someone.
I have been trying, with so much intentionality, to give back grace when shown rudeness, I have been trying to reflect back kindness when kindness is withheld from me.
I can tell you I am not perfect at it, but I am trying. I am intentionally pausing, reflecting on God, and trying to let kindness be my weapon and grace be my shield. The last month God has tested me on this practice. Almost every afternoon I venture to the same place to grab an iced coffee. For roughly a month I have been greeted each visit with the same cashier at my coffee spot. The best way I can describe her is angry. This young woman has something going on that is reflective in her face, her tone, and her words shout to the outside world, “I am angry.” She either hates her job at the coffee place, or she has continued rude customers before I arrive and she is broke down by the time I get there every afternoon, or her personal life is in disarray—something is going on because she wears anger on her face with fierce presentation. She also presents her anger in the way she treats me, she is short in her speech, her tone is full of frustration, she lacks any courtesy, and most days she huffs and eye rolls as I walk away to the pick-up station.
The easy thing to do would be just to ignore her or even reflect back what she is projecting out.
It would be easy to just order my coffee, step aside, and move on. It would be easy to reflect back her sharp tone, it would be easy to be curt back to her…
After the first week of experiencing her annoyed attitude I decided to pray. I prayed for God to show me how I could help this young woman.
I prayed for God to bring some light into her life because something is causing her to be the way she is. God told me to engage her, God leaned into my heart and encouraged me to be a light in her day.
That first week I was in no way rude back to her, but I just said thank you and picked up my drink and moved along. I made no effort to engage her, I made no effort to go the extra mile to be an encouragement to her. I admit I took the easy road and just tried to move on as quickly as I could. I am not a small talker, I am not a person to typically engage strangers and ask, “how is your day?”
But God wasn’t going to allow me to just shuffle along.
I felt so convicted that God was calling me to engage this young woman, to go outside my introverted comfort zone and really engage her.
So I started on my next coffee trip.
After she took my order (by the way she would never give effort to ask for my order, when you walked up to the counter she would just look at you with her finger hovering the order screen waiting for you to just say what you wanted and move on) so after she took my drink order—as I was fishing my debit card out of my wallet—I began talking to her.
I asked how her day was going. She gave me one word, a disgruntled, “fine.” I paid, she passed my cup down the line and she turned away.
The next coffee trip, I approached the counter, instead of just stating my order I opened with, “It is beautiful out today, do you have anything fun planned for after work?” She in turn responded with a haughty “nope” and moved me along.
Each day I kept trying, I would smile, I would ask her questions…
Are you in college?
What is your major?
What do you want to do when you graduate?
Do you have anything fun planned for the weekend?
As I would pick up my drink I would always look back to the cashier area and tell the whole crew, I hope ya’ll have a great rest of the day.
I just kept on pouring kindness into her every visit and every visit, even as recent as last Friday, I received the same huffs, quick turn away, and curtness from her as I have the last month.
I continued to pray: God help whatever is going on to cause this woman to be so angry, please bring joy to her.
I felt God to continue to tell me, you continue being a kindness in her day, you just continue to NOT add to the frustration she has.
Friends, yesterday I walked in the same time as every day and she stood tall at that counter, her entire demeanor was different, before I could speak she smiled—it was radiant—and she asked me if I wanted my usual order. I was so excited to see this young woman appear to have joy! I greeted her back with warmth and she told me to have a great day.
She was different, the weight that I had seen her carry appeared to be gone and she was different. I walked out of that coffee shop with the biggest smile, I was so ecstatic to see this woman happy!
I am in no way boasting that my month of kindness—in five minute coffee orders—changed her.
But you know what…my kindness did not add to her weight.
I could have easily reflected back her rudeness because that is our nature, as humans our natural flesh response is to reflect back what we are given, but friends that just adds to the weight someone is already carrying, it helps no one to reflect back hurt.
But compassion, kindness, and a smile, even when it’s hard to give that back to someone discourteous…
Well, you just never know if you are the only light they have in their day, you never know when you will finally see what you have been pouring out reflected back to you, you never know what kindness and prayer can do to lift the weight off someone.
So choose kind, even when it’s hard.