Tim and I had a fight a few weeks ago. He is usually the last one up at our house since he works so late at night and by the time he woke up that morning things were crazy and chaotic. It was a Friday and I was trying to get the kids all ready to go to Mass but they were taking their time over breakfast and getting distracted by all their toys. They did not want to clean up their cereal boxes or wash their dishes. They had to be reminded three or four times, each, to get dressed. After they got dressed they had to be sent back to their rooms to get dressed again because no one came out in clothes appropriate for Church. It was basically a normal morning at our house, but that, of course, means patience and a sense of humor are required to survive. Tim woke up with neither and I had pretty much reached the end of mine. He snapped at the kids a few times. He snapped at me, I might have snapped back, and then Tim left for work in a huff. I was fuming the rest of the morning and found myself formulating an argument in my mind. I kept dwelling on all the things he had done wrong and how rude he had been. In my mind, I kept justifying my words and actions and the longer I thought about it all, the angrier I became.
Then, I went to Mass with the kids. We stayed for Stations of the Cross and by the time we came home I was feeling much, much better. I had forgotten about the argument and was no longer angry at Tim. There was a message on the answering machine from him though and he said to call him when I got a chance. I was curious what he might want in the middle of the day and called him immediately. He said he felt bad about our fight and wanted to apologize. Without even thinking about it, I started sharing with him all the reasons that he should be sorry. All my earlier thoughts about his rudeness and selfishness came rushing back to me and it all just spewed out of my mouth even though I really wasn’t even angry any more. He got angry, really angry, I suppose justifiably, and we fought over the phone until it was clear we weren‘t getting anywhere. I’m pretty sure the conversation ended in someone slamming the phone down forcefully.
When Tim got home that evening the fighting continued. I yelled at him, he yelled at me. We ate dinner in tense silence. Even the kids were more quiet than usual, knowing mommy and daddy were angry, though I am sure they had no idea why. We spent the evening avoiding each other as best we could. Later, after the kids had been put to bed and we were still at each other’s throats, Tim shouted at me that I never think about his feelings.
Now as this was all going on, just a few days into Lent, I was engaged in another battle at the same time. An interior battle, with myself. I had, as part of my Lenten promises begun praying the “Litany of Humility” each morning when I got up. Even that morning I had started the day on my knees praying…. “from the desire of being esteemed, Jesus deliver me, from the desire of being praised, Jesus deliver me, from the fear of suffering rebukes, Jesus deliver me…” All day I had recognized that this was my opportunity to practice a little of the humility I had genuinely been praying for. As if the "Litany of Humility" running through my brain wasn’t enough to make me feel bad about the all day fighting, I had that afternoon been preparing for an upcoming meeting for the Little Flowers girls club I lead. The virtue we were learning that month was, what else? Humility. So, one part of my mind kept demanding that I humble myself and apologize but the angry part, the louder more demanding part, had just kept on arguing, insulting and yelling.
It wasn’t until the very end of the day, after Tim and I climbed into bed still angry and bitter, and the lights were out and it was quiet, that I prayed. I told God how angry and frustrated I was, I told Him I did not want to apologize and I hated being humble. I told Him that I knew I had been asking for greater humility but I did not want it anymore, not today, and not in this situation. My prayer was not helping me feel any better and it was not quieting my conscience either. So, at long last, after venting to God and trying to convince Him, and myself, that I should not have to apologize, I did finally ask Him to help me say those two little words that were so desperately needed. I must have repeated my prayer, “help me God to say I’m sorry,“ ten times. Then, in the quiet darkness, finally I mumbled, “I’m sorry,” sort of hoping Tim had already fallen asleep. He was awake, of course, and in his humility he didn't say ,"you should be sorry!" or even, "well, its about time!"
It was amazing how just asking for God’s help in being more merciful towards Tim made all the difference. It didn’t make it easy to apologize but I did apologize and that in and of itself is pretty amazing, (just ask Tim). So, though it was not easy to ask God for help in doing what was right, when I did it, He was merciful. The fight ended, the anger disappeared and I found out humility is really not so bad.
I have linked this story up with Pay it forward over at A Life-Sized Catholic Blog.