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Armed Always with an Axe to Grind

Axe to Grind woman dog walking small cropped sxc.hu


Strolling with my wife today we happened upon a woman walking her dog. She had paused ahead, tying her shoe (or so we thought) and we closed the gap between us. She moved on quickly as we drew near (to run from the scene of the crime obviously) for, in the very spot she’d been bending down, we found her baggie for her dog’s waste, tied neatly and hidden in the stone wall stretching across the lawn before us.

I have a heightened sense of justice. I take responsibility for my own crud and think others should do the same. I do my best to respect others, meaning showing regard for their persons, their time, their labors, their property. This woman’s act of disrespect and shirking of responsibility set me off inside. As I grumbled, (as if she’d stuffed her gift into the Wailing Wall) I was attempting to make sense of this act of defilement; she did not appear to me to be a shirker… she’d picked it up, put it in a baggie and tied the baggie nicely. I began to second guess my own provocation to anger.

My wife figured it out first. No doubt, the need to solve such a dilemma before I opened my big mouth drove her reasoning processes on at lightning speed. Now, she is equally as susceptible to bouts of fury at the indignities of witnessing injustice as myself, but she is much less likely to say something to anyone… other than to me, of course; I get an earful.

With the confidence of a CSI agent having finished all the tests, she said, “She is coming back this way, I bet, and intends to grab it on her way home. She doesn’t want to finish her walk with a stinky bag of doggie dump swinging in her hands.”

She was right, and I knew it the second she said it. I was glad I kept my mouth shut… years ago I wouldn’t have. Time and struggle have taught me to second guess my first impressions, to give the “benefit of the doubt,” and to curtail what my nature deems “my business,” at least more so than in my youth.

It is pretty easy for people of certain temperaments to operate through “benefit of the doubt” to lead with “grace.” It is natural for them, not supernatural, but “being like Jesus” is not about natural temperament… “spiritual” is not a personality type. For those slower to anger by nature, or hampered by the iron shackles of timidity, patience is a personal strength in their struggles with sin. Their weaknesses are found elsewhere. While they excel at “Love the sinner,” the “Hate the sin” part of the equation can be a bigger issue for them. “Live and let live” can become a hideaway from confrontational elements in discipleship, whatever their own moral virtue.

For those of us, however, more confrontational by birth, driven by an innate desire to set other people straight, patience, grace, and “benefit of the doubt” are a battle ground. We are good at “Hate the sin,” whatever struggles we may have in our own moral virtue, but have a difficult time expressing “Love the sinner.” We are armed always with an axe to grind, seeking to make things right, to whip other people into shape.

Just as society needs both kinds of people to function, the individual needs both elements to operate as a checks and balance within his or her soul. People can learn better balance through suffering and time, but a proper balance requires a supernatural touch, a transformation through the Holy Spirit into the likeness of our Lord. Pray for and meditate on the need for balance… whatever side of the isle your personality sends you first and easiest.

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