Yesterday, as I drove a friend to and from getting minor surgery, Christine shared with me a struggle she’s been having at work. She has a co-worker who has constantly been mean to her—unkind remarks, purposefully knocking over her paperwork—just generally unpleasant. Christine made a conscious decision to be kind to this woman and to pray for her. “I don’t know what she’s going through, but something made her that way. All I can do is be kind and pray that her heart is comforted.”
She has seen this woman change in response to her kindness. “Now, I’m not saying we’re friends, but she smiles at me and greets me by name when we see each other now.” … no apology, no acknowledgement of the earlier spiteful behavior, but there is now a sweeter feeling in their workplace because Christine decided to turn the other cheek and return unkindness with kindness.
Sometimes we don’t ever get to understand why someone acts the way they do. All we can do is decide how we will respond in any situation.
What Christine does not know is that very morning, I received news that my brother had been admitted to a psychiatric ward after shooting himself. He is where he needs to be, hopefully getting the help he desperately needs … but yesterday, I was dealing with my husband being out-of-town, traveling for work; getting four children off to school; and a heart hurting because of family members that are so very, very broken and dealing with mental illness.
I have already shared how I am the oldest of eight children. What I have not shared is that my father had anger issues while I was growing up and was very physically abusive. My mother has borderline personality disorder, which is a mental illness that causes behavior that is VERY hard to grow up with: manipulation, abuse, and a distorted view of reality.
This has led to a LOT of brokenness within our family—addictions, mental illnesses, and relationships that are strained to the breaking point. There have been several suicide attempts by various family members—with the attendant questions within my mind: “Could I do more? Should I be a more involved part of their very unstable life when I have my own children to consider? WHAT can I do?”
My heart aches for the pain that drives my family members to that extreme of hopelessness. I want to ease their suffering—I KNOW why they have chosen the oblivion of drug-use, to escape the pain of reality. I understand so very, very well how it could be easier to choose to abandon your children, rather than face the reality that you might not be able to overcome learned patterns of poor parenting—better to have your children raised by anyone other than yourself, because you might continue the pattern of abuse. … I may have chosen differently for myself, but I have fought these same mental battles and I understand the reasons behind why they chose their paths.
I want so badly to be of use, but I am trying to raise my children in a safe, happy environment.
I have turned to doctors for counsel and received stern strictures to keep my children far, far away from these family members. I have turned to church leaders for counsel and together prayed for understanding and guidance. My entire adult life I have struggled to know how to show love in situations that are impossible. There have been years of separation, there have been moments of closeness, and there have been many, many tears and moments of desperate loneliness.
I continue to struggle with knowing what to do in each relationship—how involved to be with each family member. I struggle to know what the Savior would have me do with such conflicting demands on my roles as mother, sister, daughter, and disciple. The truth is, I just don’t know. So, I try to be kind, to suspend judgement on seemingly poor choices, and to simply love.
And I have come to learn that: Sometimes we don’t ever get to understand why someone acts the way they do. All we can do is decide how we will respond in any situation.
As someone who deeply loves people who I know are being unkind to those around them, similar to Christine’s co-worker, may I offer a plea? Please follow Christine’s example. Be kind. You don’t know what has led that person to behave that way, but for a twist of fate, you, yourself, might be there. Be kind. It costs nothing but a bit of effort, a bit of understanding, a bit of love. This journey of life is HARD and for some, the journey is rockier than you can imagine. Be kind. Be loving. Please.
Growing up all over the world gave Emlee Taylor an opportunity to see the incredible differences the Lord created in humanity; and even better, the passions we all share as members of the human race: love for family, faith, & a desire to make a difference. Emlee lives life with passion—focusing her time now on raising four children and teaching them to recognize truth and to live true to that truth, regardless of others’ expectations. Emlee is passionately in love with her bestest friend and husband of more than 20 years.