Before I start today, I just want you to know that I have my husband’s permission to tell this story. He learned a good lesson through this incident several years ago. I feel so blessed to be married to someone who admits his mistakes and chooses to grow from them. Now on to the story–
“What does he want now? He always has a problem, doesn’t he? He is such a pain!” These words, or at least words like these, spilled out of my husband’s mouth as he spewed much of the frustration he had felt towards a troublesome customer for some years. His employee was at the complaining customer’s property and had called with a question. Unfortunately for my husband, the employee on the other end of the call was using his Nextel and had put it on speaker phone. He had called with the customer right beside him and said customer had just heard my husband’s entire deluge of words directed at him.
What to do? Our employee handled it as best he could. He left my husband know immediately and in a nonchalant way that the man was right beside him and listening. The conversation became stilted and was finished quickly. My husband’s heart sank. What kind of mess had he gotten himself into now? He tries to treat all customers courteously and kindly, but every now and again, one stretches him to his limits.
After the mortifying realization of what had occurred, he made the decision to go and apologize to this man. And, quite honestly, he was very well received. After the apology and some open discussion, our relationship with this customer improved considerably and he is still our customer to this day.
As we laugh about it now, we also realize that there are some important lessons to be learned from the unfortunate incident.
1. There will be people who frustrate us in life. It is important that we apply scriptural principles in our dealings with them. In Luke 6:31, Jesus says: And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise. If we apply this principle with the irritating people in our lives, it should change our responses.
2. It is important to choose our words carefully, even when we are frustrated or irritated. Too often we spout off words we don’t even mean in the heat of the moment. Whether they are about someone or directly to that person, we need to use self-control when we express our frustration.
3. Don’t be too proud to apologize. The last thing my husband wanted to do was to go to this customer and apologize. First, he doesn’t know him that well personally and second, it was just downright embarrassing. So many times we are afraid to face the person we have offended or hurt, so we just pretend it will go away. But it doesn’t! That pain and hurt, even if forgiven, often lingers on in the heart of the person we hurt. It is important that we offer our sincere apology immediately. In the case of this customer, it was the best thing my husband could have done. And, from my own experience (with my many mistakes in life!), it does get easier the more you do it. If you are out of practice of apologizing, the first time will be agonizing. You will stumble over your words and hesitate and feel foolish. But try it! I think you will find it so beneficial to your relationships, and at the very least, you will know that you have done the right thing.
4. It is important to choose our words carefully always, but especially when we are in a public setting–on the phone, in the bleachers or on the sidelines, in a church hallway, or at a family gathering. Ephesians 4:29 says: Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. Does my speech impart grace to the hearers? What a great test for our language.
Life is full of unpleasant, uncomfortable, and awkward circumstances. It is important that we don’t miss the life lessons hidden in those moments. The story above was just one such moment and even now, years later, we still think on the lessons we learned from that unpleasant incident.