Several years ago, I got stuck between two team members in a confrontation. Call them Joe and Steve. A coffee date was set for the purpose of working things out. Steve apologized right away, admitting he had screwed up. Joe wasn’t having it. An apology didn’t give him a chance plunge the knife and twist it hard. Steve tried to apologize again—several times, but he got nowhere. Finally, in frustration, he said, “I don’t know what else to do. I’ve said I’m sorry.” Joe leaned in, narrowed his eyes with a sadistic glint, and with a twisted grin he said, “Why don’t you say it again?”
I knew in that moment that I no longer wanted to work with Joe. It wasn’t a matter of forgiveness. I’m not perfect. Lord knows I’ve said stupid things. I just knew that I didn’t ever want to inflict that kind of behavior on my clients or other teammates. Still, in the ensuing weeks, I wondered if I should let bygones be bygones. One morning, I was reading in the Proverbs, a treasure trove of wisdom and always a good place to find insight. These words practically jumped off the page at me:
Don’t make friends with an angry man, and don’t be a companion of a hot-tempered man. Proverbs 22:24
I took comfort in those words. I know I’m required to treat others as I wish to be treated, but these words reminded me that I’m not required to befriend everyone. Wisdom offers protection. But how do you discern between the person who simply needs that extra measure of kindness and mercy versus the person you should avoid?
Jesus said, “You’ll know them by their fruit.” Unfortunately, we have all become adept at the fine art of putting on our best “Facebook” for the public. So how can we distinguish the authentic person versus the fake? Whether it’s the newscasters, the politicians, or the scandel-ridden public figure, we’ve seen the best of the best make mud look like diamonds. Jesus warns us not to be fooled though. Just look at the person’s life, he says. You can’t get fruit from a weed. If you see goodness, faithfulness, or kindness, you are looking at the real deal. If, though, you see someone talks one way but consistently lives another way, Jesus teaches us to trust our eyes.
Do you trust what you see? Or do you second-guess, think you’re being “too hard” on someone, and backtrack from believing what is right in front of you?