Luke 12:58-59 (CEV)
58 When someone accuses you of something, try to settle things before you are taken to court. If you don’t, you will be dragged before the judge. Then the judge will hand you over to the jailer, and you will be locked up. 59 You won’t get out until you have paid the last cent you owe.
When was the last time you got defensive?
Was it when your kids said you were the worst parent ever!?
When your partner yelled, I have to do everything around here?
When your boss accused you of goofing off on the job?
When your parents called saying you never come over anymore?
When your dog looked pointedly at you for going out again without him?
Sometimes the criticism is warranted.
Sometimes it really isn’t.
But how do we respond? More often than not, with defensiveness.
And the problem with defensiveness is that it tends to escalate the situation. Which, as Jesus points out, has a tendency to make the problem far bigger than it ever had to be.
Now, not every argument or defensive response is going to land us in court, but at least in my experience I haven’t found defensiveness to improve matters in these situations!
So what’s the alternative?
Jesus says, “try to settle things before you get taken to court.”
He might have also said, “try to settle things before you end up thinking about divorce.”
Or, “try to settle things before you get yourself fired.”
Or, “try to settle things before this friendship goes sour.”
Jesus is all about our relationships. God, through Jesus, shows up on earth to invite us into the kind of relationship with God, with ourselves and with each other that we were always made to be in. And that kind of relationship is characterized by being grounded in who we are, in understanding the complexity of our brokenness, and in having a generous willingness to work through that brokenness.
You see, when we are grounded in who we are – in who God made us and set us free to be – then those hurtful words don’t have to define us, so we don’t have to become instantly reactive to them.
When we understand the complexity of our brokenness, then we recognize that my “little act” can still cause you a lot of pain. I can take the time to acknowledge the impact of that on you, which in turn will result in me becoming empathetic to your experience.
And if I have a generous willingness to work through that brokenness, I will carve out time, I will make space, I will prioritize our relationship. We will sit down for a coffee or a slice of pizza or cheesecake or go for a walk in the woods or sit down with a trusted friend or whatever it takes to sort out the damage that has built up between us.
If we do that then the story might be very, very different. It might involve love and joy and hope and future.
There might be something even more than the absence of a fight. There might be shalom.
- What do you sound like or look like when you get defensive? (What are your ‘tells’?) – Hint, if you don’t know, ask someone you live with … they can almost always answer this question!
- What things are most likely to make you defensive?
- Do you know why?
- If you don’t, would you be willing to ask God to show you why?
- What would it look like to root this place of defensiveness in the knowledge that God loves you deeply? That God knows all about why it hurts, and cares about the experiences that make the situation difficult?
- How would that change the situation the next time it comes up?