Owning It

Today, I received an unexpected phone call from a friend of mine – and for the purposes of this blog, let’s just refer to the person as Sam –someone I’ve known for well over a decade. The call came as a complete surprise, but since Sam and I had been in correspondence a few days previously, I decided to pick up the phone (something I rarely do – I am known as a fairly regular screener of calls, even with family sometimes!).

Anyway, I was happy to hear from Sam. Imagine my surprise, though, when he shared some surprising news (and not positive!) news with me. I was both shocked and saddened, but tried to be as supportive as I could in the moment.

What I admired most about Sam was this: despite the negative turn of events, He totally owned the mistake he had made. It would have been very easy for him to mislead me, and let me think that he had been the victim in this situation, but instead he let me know how he had been culpable – at least in part.

While I do not have the full story, I suspect that there were several factors at work, and the situation might’ve been resolved more peacefully for everyone involved. However, it wasn’t, and the consequences of the choice Sam had made hit him suddenly and forcefully. 

I am not writing this to chastise Sam – rather, despite making an unwise decision, I commend him for owning his story. While it is usually in our best interests to own our story as early in the process as possible, I think what really matters is that we take responsibility for our choices ultimately.

I believe that this experience will be a turning point for Sam, and that he has already learned something significant from it. I will also continue to be friends with Sam, because he cared enough about me to tell me the truth. In hindsight, he really didn’t have to, and this whole episode prompted me to  ask myself a painful question: Were I in a similar situation, would I have told the complete truth? Especially if  doing so cast me in a less-than-favorable light?

I like to think that the answer would be “Yes,” But in the pain of loss, disappointment and rejection, we tend to focus internally, and take (sometimes drastic) measures to protect ourselves. Or, we edit the situation a bit – leaving off a detail here or a fact there. We’re all guilty of this in some way, shape or form – the sin of omission.

Most of us experience a twinge of guilt when we have done something that we shouldn’t have – that is the sin of commission – we overstepped. However, when we fail to do (or say) that which we should do or say, then we have entered into the sin of omission – when we simply omit saying or doing the right thing.

To my knowledge, Sam is not a man of faith. However, despite his missteps, I think he acted with more integrity today than I might have done under similar circumstances. Sam owned his story, and I recognize that there is much that I can learn from my conversation with him. So today, I am grateful for the example that Sam showed me of owning his story, regardless of how it made look.

It wasn’t pretty, and it was hard to hear, but at least he was honest. He was actually quite vulnerable, now that I think of it. And honestly, the first thought that came to my mind was this: who am I to judge this man?

Certainly, his actions were unwise, and discernment tells me that there might be some character issues that need to be addressed. However, from God’s perspective, we all have character issues that need to be addressed. None of us is perfect. And had Sam been Christian, my response might’ve been a little different, but really not much.

This incident took me back to a time nearly twenty years ago when a friend of mine shared something quite grave with me. She thought that I was going to reject her, ss others have done. And while it was profoundly painful to hear what she had to say, I recognized that she was very remorseful over her actions, that she had done her business with God, and was working hard to make better decisions in her present and future. And when I look at her now, I treasure our friendship. Truly. What a loss it would’ve been to me, but I simply walked away from it all twenty years ago.

Ultimately, what sealed the deal for me – and the situation is the same with Sam – is that she had done nothing negative to me. Ever. And when I reflect on my friendship with Sam that has lasted for well over a decade, I must remember that he has never done anything to me personally (even though it was disappointing to hear about the choices he had made).

We all make mistakes, and it’s only by the grace of God that we are still here. God has shown such compassion and mercy to me – Sometimes by letting me experience the consequences of the choices that I have made – that I need to remember to extend this same kindness to others.

After all, who knows? You never know what the future has in store, and there may be a time when I need to make a phone call to a dear friend and share some disappointing news. I hope that this never happens, but the moment I start to believe that I am above a certain kind of behavior, I have already begun to decline – emotionally, spiritually, and relationally.

I know that today’s post was lengthy, but there really was no quick and easy way to share what was on my heart. However, I am so grateful for friends of mine who own their stories, and feel comfortable enough to be vulnerable, and tell me the truth – even when it is difficult. After all, if our friendships cannot survive the difficult times, then perhaps they really aren’t friendships at all.

Dear Lord, I thank You for Sam. You know his story better than I do, and I know that You have a plan for him, so I need not worry about him. Thank you for giving Sam courage to be honest and vulnerable when it would’ve been so much easier for him to do the opposite. 

Thank You also for raising this tender issue in my heart and mind – what would I have done, had the roles been reversed? I appreciate this important reminder about sins of commission and omission; it not meant to keep me bound by guilt or fear, but rather to keep me alert, ever mindful of the impact that my words and actions can and do have on others. In Your name I pray, Amen.

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