A woman was wheeled in, lying on a table. Rather than clothes, she was covered in food. The reality TV guests were invited to sit down and eat. Three guys immediately walked off while the others tucked in saying “all the more for us!”
When one of the guys came back to explain himself (not wanting to be rude), he said he just didn’t feel it was right (or something like that), at which point one of the ladies eating at the table (i.e. off the young woman), said with a fierce look in her eye, “Don’t make me wrong”.
What she meant was ‘don’t you dare say that what I am doing is wrong. It can be wrong for you, ok, I’m cool with that, but don’t for one-minute start pointing the finger at me and saying that what I am doing is wrong’. “Don’t make me wrong!”.
The emotion and reaction was so on the surface. That, right there, is how we often feel when someone tells us we have done something wrong, or even when we tell ourselves we have done something wrong. It can hurt deeply, so we respond strongly to defend ourselves, and even avenge ourselves. But why does it hurt so much?
I obviously can’t comment on why that lady said what she did in the way that she did as I don’t know anything about her, but it got me thinking. Why do we respond like that at times?
Maybe it is because we are insecure in our “rightness”. When something touches our insecurities, it often provokes a big response. It’s like a needle bursting a balloon. Inside we are huffing and puffing ourselves up to be a big this or that. Perhaps it’s to be liked, or to be a good leader, or father, or mother, or good at our jobs. We know we are not, but we are wanting so much to be and putting so much effort into it. We try so hard to be good at something but often feel bad at it. When someone criticises us, it pops the balloon, and we go bang!
If I know I am a good football player and someone says I am rubbish at it, I would probably shrug it off. But if I felt and thought I was rubbish, but really wanted to be good and had tried so hard all my life to be good and was trying to persuade myself that I was good at football and someone said, “you can’t play for toffee, you let the team down every time”, I think I would end up in pieces inside.
We so want to be good, but we know we are not. We try hard to be good but feel bad about ourselves. We may even get to the point where we have built ourselves up through hard work and mental gymnastics to the point where we think we are good. The last thing we want is someone knocking down our house of cards because then we would have to deal with the truth that we have done things that are wrong and no amount of good deeds or comparisons with others, or “I did the best I could”, will ultimately change that.
There is only one person who can change it. The biblical word for “goodness” is righteousness. Jesus came to give us his righteousness as a gift so that we could be good and increasingly do good. Through faith in him, I get his goodness credited to me. If I really understand that I am freed from huffing and puffing and blowing up balloons of self-righteousness inside me, I can concentrate on doing the right thing from a place of security in who I am. If I am criticised for being bad, there should be no balloon to burst. It’s still going to cause me sorrow and grief, but hopefully not so much protective anger.