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Giving grace to people who seem to really suck

I used to struggle with truly hating someone from my past. To me, they were controlling and manipulative and they betrayed my trust. I knew I could NEVER do to anyone what they did to me. But interestingly, when they told the story, they presented me as the villain. To them- my talking about problems was threatening and quarrelsome. This baffled me. I struggled to like them because some of my top values are loyalty and freedom, so feeling controlled or being betrayed seem *inexcusable* to me. Meanwhile, their value was peace, and any confrontation was inexcusable to them.

We both viewed the other person as a villain because we both threatened the other's top values. And I think that this is true for most of us when we struggle to like or choose others.

We make cases against people, not because we want to hate others, but because they act against our values and we believe it is inexcusable. But that doesn't mean these values are bad. They are actually beautiful and important!

I love how a book I like demonstrates this. In the book, the author gives the example of 2 neighbors. One neighbor needs to borrow the other’s lawn mower. He goes over to his neighbor’s house and asks about his family, his lawn, and everything else under the sun...and after 5 minutes, he asks if he could use the lawn mower.

The neighbor says yes, but walks away upset. He thinks- ‘He just wanted my lawn mower. He didn’t really care about my family. He was just buttering me up so I would say yes.'

Meanwhile, if the tables were turned and this neighbor went up to the other man’s lawn and just directly said “Hey can I borrow your lawn mower?”, the neighbor would think “Ugh, He didn’t even ask me about my family or my life. So rude.”

Both really believed their preference was right based on their own values. One valued directness, one valued polite small talk. Neither are bad, and yet, in these scenarios, they both villainized the other for doing what they would have wanted done to them.

Not all situations are so pure-hearted, and every time I write a ‘give grace’ blog, there is always at least one person who comments, ‘what about Hitler?’ (literally every time). I know there ARE some black and white completely wrong behaviors, but I would argue that 99% of what you think is wrong is majorly shaped by your values.

Rudeness (as an idea) is wrong. But both of these neighbors thought the other one was rude because of their values.

Honesty is right and kindness is right, but we have all been conditioned to understand these concepts very differently. I see honesty as openness, while others think complete openness is unkind.

We all know what is wrong (lying, cheating, stealing, hurting, etc) and what is right (love, kindness, faithfulness, etc), but ALL of us try to act in this 'right' differently. This happens in friendships, relationships, or in driving on the freeway. Actually, did you know that 73% of Americans believe they are great drivers? Yet, I imagine you wouldn’t think that 73% of the drivers around you are 'great.' This is because everyone is defining 'great' by different values. Some value obeying the speed limit and they consider themselves great drivers because they do this. Others value efficiency and believe the surrounding drivers who go the speed limit are awful drivers. Both are convinced their value is better and that the people who don't prioritize their values are worse than them.

There are some values that conflict with each other. Just as I was accused of being quarrelsome because I value open and honest confrontation, sometimes your values will paint you out to be ‘bad’ in another’s eyes. Of course we can all grow in acting in our values without offending others’ values, but sometimes, it’s impossible. If you value time, and the other person values flexibility, you both cannot live 100% fully in your values without unintentionally hurting the other. There either needs to be conversation or compromise.

This thought process was spurred on this week when I remembered a super cringeworthy high school memory. I was in choir and we were all doing warm-ups together as a class when the choir teacher walked by me and my friend. He stopped, stuck out his ear to us, and contorted his face to show that he was analyzing our pitch. And after evaluating us, he nodded and said, “sounds good.” My stomach sunk. I felt examined and judged. I purposefully avoided the spotlight to avoid those things. Even though he said something nice, I felt measured up and I hated it. I loved singing and I wanted to do it joyfully, but I hated being judged and it hurt me.

And there, my values were shown: not being judged/compared, doing things from passion, and honor.

And given these values, bold 15-year-old Janie made a case against this choir teacher and went up to him after class. I told him I didn’t appreciate being judged like that... and understandably, he was shocked.

We can feel as justified as we want in our own opinions, which are shaped by our own values. But now- I see his side. He probably valued spotting talent, giving confidence, and giving feedback - all great things! I actually don’t know his values, but I sure as heck didn’t even bother to try and guess them back then- or to give him the benefit of the doubt. All I could see was that he offended MY values.

And this is the number 1 thing I’ve learned. I’ve learned that most people are truly trying their best based on their personal values. I believe some people are flat-out wrong in how they act towards me, but it’s been a beautiful thing to realize that what I previously thought was evil was probably more about our values not lining up. Some people won't pay attention to somethings as much as I do, but that's because they don't value those things as much. I can't expect for everyone to have all of my same values- just as it wouldn't be fair for them to expect me to have all of their values. It’s also been healing to realize that even if I give them grace, it's still ok if our different values make it too hard for me to be around them sometimes.

Some (ok... many) of my values are strong and when I see dishonesty, or dishonor, or rudeness, I get upset (and then I upset people who don’t like high emotions/ or value calm).

I don’t believe the answer is to change our values. I see how God gave me these values for a reason and I believe He purposefully gave yours to you too. But the best thing to do (in my opinion) is to TRULY GIVE PEOPLE GRACE. They are coming at things with a whole different set of values- which are beautiful. If you sense yourself getting irritated, consider that they are not exactly like you! (sassy, sorry). They have their own upbringings. They have their own experiences (including hurts and fears). And they have their own stories of when they got advice from others (and all of the advice is different for every person). These have all created what they believe is a good way to live. And they probably have a team of people telling them they are right to do things the way they do.

When Jesus said that it's easy to love our friends and hard to love our enemies, I believe He hits the nail on the head. How easy to love someone when they are similar to you. But it is harder to love people when we don't understand their actions.

Basically, I’ve learned not to judge and to try and understand. Sometimes, people’s intentions are bad, and I'm not ignoring that. But often, we make cases against people because they didn’t live out OUR values in the exact way WE would. It isn’t bad to seek clarity, but it is bad to just resolve that they MUST be _(whatever)__ based on what we've seen.

We can be proud of our values, and still know that others will differ, and that that’s ok. Better yet, we can all help each other in seeing all sides and becoming wiser and more understanding. If you have personally felt accused of being a villain because someone didn't understand you, I hope this blog gives you the peace to know that their perspective isn't everything. And we can give them grace for judging us.

So, even though it's true that I could make a case against anyone, I don't want to. My values are valid and important, but they aren't the only important values in the world. The Pharisees used their values to villainize the only perfect person (He healed on the Sabbath after all, and He flipped tables — how ‘aggressive’!), so I know it's possible to have beautiful values (as they valued what they were taught to value: the Law) and to wrongly condemn someone because of a lack of understanding. Let's have our values, and still give people grace when they seem to go against them. (and consequently, seem to suck)

I want to seek understanding, give the benefit of the doubt, occasionally seek clarity, and give lots of grace because I don’t know why everyone does everything they do —and it very well might be because of a beautiful value they carry.


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