I felt so dirty. Ashamed. Embarrassed. Not myself. “You have no idea how you may have just affected that man,” a voice in my head whispered. “Now go back there and apologize.”
I was in Wal-Mart quickly pushing my cart filled with overpriced school supplies trying to keep up with the Olympic speed walking pace of my Gramma. I had been up for nearly 40 hours and just looked and felt gross. To top it off, my stress and anxiety levels were so high that my resting heart rate had elevated to 112bpm, close to where it sat during finals week the previous spring.
I had just arrived back from Finland and had planned to spend the week before law school classes resumed focusing on my small business. I had seriously under estimated the time it would take to complete my pre-class reading and was frantically trying to figure out how to complete my first Moot Court and Journal assignments. To top it off, I was a nervous wreck because I had yet to secure a summer associate position for next summer and was worrying all of my career dreams had crashed and burned. I. Was. A. Complete. Mess.
A thumb drive pushed me over the edge and the bubbly red head Wal-Mart associate became the unlucky soul to absorb the wrath of my anger. All I wanted was a thumb drive. I thought that was a simple request. But I was wrong. When the thumb drive wouldn’t slide off the hanger, I realized it had one of those anti-left protections that required associate help. After glancing at the length of the line, I tried to rip the cardboard box to slide it off but was met with the “don’t you dare do that, Krista Ann (middle-name-you’re-in-trouble-level)” glare from my grandmother. I rolled my eyes and waited five minutes while the associate asked every customer in front of me for what seemed like their life story. So when it was my turn, and he asked me how my day was, I snapped. I became grouchy. The associate was taken back by my tone. And, I continued to snap at him the entire time he tried to assist me, before finally yelling, “This is completely ridiculous!” When he told me I had to pay for the thumb drive at the counter but could not pay for any of my other items.
As I walked away, the dirty feeling set in. I worked for almost three years as a cashier, and I knew how mean customers could be. I was just the rude customer I had always vowed I would never be. Immediately the shame began to set in. I wanted to check out and leave and not have to face the way I had made the man feel. But I couldn’t do it, I knew God wanted more from me.
“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.”~ James 1:19
So, I went back. I stared at the floor as I waited in line, embarrassed to have the associate look at me. When it was finally my turn, I took in a deep breath and said, “I am so very sorry for the way I just treated you. It was unacceptable. I took out my anger and stress on you when you were just trying to do your job and help me. I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?” I felt the eyes of the customers behind me burn against the back of my head. The man’s mouth opened in surprise.
“You’re only the second customer to ever apologize to me in my ten years here,” he said solemnly. “I appreciate it. Thank you.” And with a smile and nod, I walked away feeling a little less dirty but relieved that I had done the right thing.
“Ain’t that somethin’?”
“Well ain’t that somethin’?” I heard the customer behind me say as I walked by. I was reminded that our interactions don’t only affect the person we interact with, but also those who watch. I know as a society we often view those in service careers as “below us,” but I had always been taught that any job done with integrity was an honorable job worthy of respect. That man was my equal, and I had treated him harshly, and I needed to apologize.
“Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” Ephesians 4:29
Our Words Are Powerful
Our words are powerful. We need to use our words to encourage one another, and I had used my words to belittle a man who was probably looked down upon by others all the time. It was important that I go back and apologize to him, and replace the words that I had wrongly used in my own selfish fit of frustration and anger to hurt him, to instead restore some of that dignity. And who knows? Maybe the customers watching behind me thought of individuals they need to apologize to, too.
Words Are A Reflection of the Heart
“Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” Luke 6:45. Our words reflect what’s on our insides. By being mean to that man, I was dumping the anger and frustration from my inside, regarding the craziness of my life, onto him. This was unacceptable. It’s important that we realize our words don’t just happen. They come from somewhere. They come from our heart. If we’re being nasty, it’s because we have something going on on the inside that needs to be addressed.
Who have you been short with today? Rude? Belittled? Bullied? Gossiped about? Our words have the power to build up and destroy, and if we’re being mean, it’s the result of something not-too-beautiful going on on the inside. We need to recognize that, apologize, and fix it. Not only does this force us to fix the root cause of our hurtful words, it restores dignity to those we belittled, and shines as a light for others.
As always, if I can encourage or pray for you in any way, let me know.