4.07.2010

Things NOT to say to your Burn-Victim Friend: an Object Lesson in Gentleness

If you’ve been reading the VWM for very long, you already know that I tend to be... honest.


Yeah, I know that’s maybe not the word you would choose to describe me. But for the sake of this-is-my-blog-so-I-get-to-say-what-I-want, let’s go with “honest”.


Last week, one of our friends and coworkers, here in Costa Rica, was badly burned when he was lighting a propane stove. A giant fire ball literally cooked his face, hands and arms. He was in the hospital for a few days, on morphine (woohoo!) and preventative antibiotics, but it looks like once all the crispy flesh falls off and after everything stops dripping and oozing, he’ll be just fine.


Thank God!


I didn’t see him right away. It was a few days before I saw him, and everybody was saying how good he was looking, and how much better it looked than when it first happened, and everyone was talking about how it could have been so much worse. So, I didn’t really know what to expect when I stopped by his house, but when he came downstairs, with his arms sticking out -all unnatural and zombie like - and greasy burn cream gooped all over, I was just....uh...


Ok. I was grossed out....What?!


So I opened my mouth to say the things you’re supposed to say when you see your Burn-Victim Friend for the first time, right? Nice things. Encouraging things. Things like, “You look great!”, or, “Oh, I bet that won’t even leave a scar”, but this what came out, instead:


"Oh.... *gag*.....


Oh my goooo....*swallow*..it’s... wow.


.....you look hideous....


...like something from a horror flick.


You look like that chick that Jason Voorhees boiled in a hot tub.


Ew.


Is the end of your nose gonna... ya know... like, grow back?...


It’s black. Your skin is black. Like, for real, black.


I’m sorry. I have to stop looking now.


You know when you get that watery feeling in your jaw, like right before you throw up? I have that.


um.... I’m gonna go... *gag*"


And that is how I learned what NOT to say to your friend who’s been licked by a big-ass ball of fire.


I think we’re still friends.


Well, we were still friends, but, then I went back and saw him yesterday - HUGE mistake! It’s just that, a lot of the wrinkly, over-cooked hot dog skin on his upper arm has fallen off to reveal this big patch of uber-white baby skin. And it looks, not even kidding, exactly like a pork chop. So, of course, I said that. Like, 30 times.


“Jeez, that looks just like a pork chop.”


“It’s ‘the other white meat’.”


“Smell it. Does it smell like a pork chop?”


And the whole time my brain was screaming to my mouth “SHUT UP, DOUCHEBAG!!!”


So, anyway, I’m not so sure where we stand on the friend scale. With any hope, he was looped up on pain meds and won’t remember a thing.

And now you’re probably thinking, “What a complete a-hole.” And you’re pretty much right.


But, I wanna say, this doesn’t stem from a lack of compassion. Seriously? Seeing my Burn-Victim Friend sends waves of compassion reeling down my spine. It makes me feel ill - not because it’s oogy (which it is) - but because I hurt for my hurting friend, like compassion sickness. Does that even make sense?


No, this bit of ugly comes from a glaring lack of gentleness.


I am not a gentle person.


I’m not gentle with myself. I’m not gentle with my kids. I’m not gentle with my spouse. I am not gentle with people who have been burned in horrific accidents.


I love being honest. I value honesty. And I prefer to be around others who are honest and true. Real. Legit. Transparent.


But. Brutal Honesty? No thank you.


I’m thinking that gentle honesty sounds more like the kind of character that God would like me to have. And I think it says so in the Bible.


So I’m gonna say this as gently as possible:

If people describe you as “brutally honest”, that’s simply their gentle way of saying that you’re a huge jackass.


Aaaaall of that to say, to my Burn-Victim Friend, I’m sorry if I was a jackass and SO GLAD you’re ok!


20 comments:

  1. I definitely need some gentleness to go along with my honesty. Can we pray for each other on that?

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  2. So you really did say all of those things...I thought it was all part of a horrific nightmarish flashback. You really are the very worst missionary. My physical wounds will heal, but the scars that you left may not. Good thing I'm taking xanax.

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  3. Jeff, the most frightening part of this story is that she can come and visit you anytime you need such uplifting encouragement. What IF Jamie decides to work on our gentleness through you?
    Now, THAT'S a scary thought!

    (for real: Don't know you, Jeff, but glad you're okay!)

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  4. Gentle honesty vs. brutal honesty...definitely going to remember that one.

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  5. Honesty and cruelty can sometimes be linked. The choice one makes on "how" to share honesty defines a person's character and will be among the life deeds that God will eventually judge. It is never a mistake to be honest, but there is always a choice of how to be honest.

    Jeff, I wish you the best for a speedy and complete recovery. God gave us the miracles of modern medicine that will see you through the process ahead. Try to be patient, as all healing ultimately comes in God's time.

    Jamie, might there be a more Christian way to live the virtue of honesty? That may be God's message for you in this moment.

    An old sinner.

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  6. Jeff - Tom and I are praying for your speedy recovery. We are so sorry.
    As for Jamie - she is most honest "brutally honest" with those she loves the most. So to Anonymous I say - Jamie's choice on how to be honest is from complete love for her friend.
    And she probably made him laugh.
    Laurie

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  7. Girl - I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE people who are honest about things in life. Who are honest to me - I've had a few people recently who have harbored things against me and it just pissed me off. I DO know the difference between being brutally honest and lovingly honest - and try to find myself on the loving side instead - but don't always make it there. Love you tons girl!!!!

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  8. I just found your blog. Do not - I repeat -

    DO. NOT. QUIT. BLOGGING. ANYTIME. SOON.

    I haven't laughed so hard in a long time.

    Sincerely, Lee

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  9. Sundog - Yes! Let's pray for each other in this area. Great idea!

    Awesome, Jeff. Now I look even more douchy!! Thanks for that.

    Rob - Very Funny. :p

    I'm hoping to remember it, too, miller_schloss. *fingers crossed*

    anon - um. Yeah. I do think there's a better way. that was the whole point of this post...

    Laurie - Thank you my friend! You know me well!!

    Erin - that's why we "connect" so well, girl. Like minded! So thankful for that, and for you.

    Thanks, Lee! I'm glad you found the VWM. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment - what a great encouragement to me!! *grins*

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  10. Sundog - Yes! Let's pray for each other in this area. Great idea!

    Awesome, Jeff. Now I look even more douchy!! Thanks for that.

    Rob - Very Funny. :p

    I'm hoping to remember it, too, miller_schloss. *fingers crossed*

    anon - um. Yeah. I do think there's a better way. that was the whole point of this post...

    Laurie - Thank you my friend! You know me well!!

    Erin - that's why we "connect" so well, girl. Like minded! So thankful for that, and for you.

    Thanks, Lee! I'm glad you found the VWM. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment - what a great encouragement to me!! *grins*

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  11. ... abject lesson ////

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  12. or.
    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/object+lesson

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  13. "Honestly" Jamie, you have no reason to apologize. Taking my boys with you to the beach for four days while I was in the hospital and giving Michelle the freedom to come and go as she needed was the most Jesus like thing that you could have possibly done. You and Steve, along with many others, were good friends when we needed them.

    Last week, more than any time in my entire life, people were telling me how beautiful my face looked (I know, it's all relative right), so when you told me that I looked hideous and that my arm looked like a pork chop, I thought it was funny because it was true. Actually I was rather pleased with myself that I could gross you out and make you want to vomit....I felt like I accomplished something.

    Anyway, we're all good, and if God is teaching you and others something through my suffering, well that kinda sucks for me, but still that's cool. I'm trying to learn every lesson from it myself...although I'm a pretty slow learner.

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  14. Oh, man, this was refreshingly funny ... and honest! At least you're as honest about yourself as you are about others!

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  15. Jeff - I 100% know you weren't offended! But i was a bit surprised by my own reaction! Your face already looks as good as new - maybe even a little better in that "I just had a chemical peel" sort of way ;) and your hands and arms are shaping up nicely!
    I like to think that God is using every moment of every day to mold and shape me, not just the tragedies of my loved ones, but thanks for your willingness to participate in my learning process. :)

    Cynthia - Welcome! Thanks so much for popping in and leaving a comment!! :)

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  16. I want to movie to costa rica now. There are cool people there.

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  17. Jamie, I am definitely the feet in ministry, as in ''foot in mouth"... glad I have some company :) God works in mysterious ways and gentleness, yes, a fruit of the spirit~ is the last one my spirit likes to use!
    Jeff, wow, so sorry brother, my heart goes out to you! Get well soon. (for Jamie's sake too) LOL!

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  18. Jaime, i'm a new reader of your blog...and i love it! i had no idea you were so open and transparent when we were at ILE. I'm bumbed we didn't hang out, could always use more real friends in my life!
    Paula Sinclair

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  19. hahahahahahahaha! you and i are one in the same in that aspect. and here i thought i was the only one? maybe because i live in the baptist bible belt so i stick out like a sore thumb. you are, however, far more entertaining a story-teller than i am. glad i found my way to your blog.

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