“Please ask Pastor Reiter to stop calling women “dear” when we come to communion. It’s condescending and rude. Why doesn’t the pastor shake hands with people after 8:30 service?”
Admittedly, there was some hurt and defensiveness on my part. “I’ve never meant that ‘dear’ (or ‘brother,’ for men) as anything but a term endearment for those coming to receive the most intimate of gifts from a loving Heavenly Father,” “this person is calling me rude and condescending without even giving me a chance!,” “and what does this have to do with the price of tea in China… or the timing of worship services?,” “they want a handshake but rail against a term of endearment!”: these were among my initial feelings and thoughts (and maybe some lingering feelings and thoughts… hey, I’m human!).
Truly, I don’t want to argue about or for any of these feelings or thoughts. They are quite simply feelings. (To be sure, there’s that part of me that wishes the Soul behind the comment would realize that her own emotions to the word “dear” [and what was behind that reaction… where are those strong words and the feelings attached coming from?] are as much the issue as my using the word.)
Still, all this said, there are a few basic lessons as I move forward… (Really, in spite of all the space and time I’ve taken, I am moving forward!) Clearly, for example, there’s my watching my tongue – being a little more careful with words like “dear” and “sweetie”… words I used to throw out without much caution… I can see how they could be construed by some as “old timey” and chauvinistic.
Strongest, though, is the lesson—actually, the reminder—that you can and will never make everyone happy. (Yes, I know it’s truth in my head… It’s one of those things, though, my heart is still learning.) Face it: if the well-intended and rather unconscious use of a word has the ability to ruffle feathers and incur judgment, what else is it that I am doing that is turning folks off? I recall, in fact, the transference that can take place when a person, any person, reminds someone – by looks or sound or whatever – of a bad memory or personage from the past.
Yes, you’re just not going to make everyone happy, Jim!
To be sure, it could paralyze one from doing or saying anything. A vow of silence and a paper bag over the head might be the answer.
Quite the contrary, though: my soul finds a certain freedom in the realization that I can’t and will never please everybody. “Hey, if the well-intended and rather unconscious word can offend and turn off, then there’s reason for living a life of integrity and speaking the truth as one sees it. Hey, if you’re going to turn some folks off anyway… If you will never be in a place where everyone likes what you do, then, the offense might as well be over the things that really matter!”
More than enough for now, huh?
Oh, yeah, one last thing. I still can’t believe that the author of that comment would have the nerve to sign it! Thanks, Kathy Reiter! (I’m kidding… about Kathy being the author of the note!)