22nd November 2009
It was night and Rubey sat at the glass door wanting to go outside. I pulled back the curtain to open the door for her, and Rubey looked out and hissed and snarled at something lurking out there. I turned on the light and looked out. I couldn't see anything and wondered what it was that my cat could see out there and I couldn't. Rubey rushed outside looking this way and that, but she seemed satisfied that her enemy was no longer there and went off quite happily.
The next night the same thing happened again, and the night after that. It took a long time, but eventually I worked out what Rubey was looking at that made her so hostile.
Every night, as I pulled back the curtain, there in the glass, Rubey could see her own reflection - a black and white cat looking back at her. Rubey hissed. The cat hissed back. Rubey snarled, the cat snarled back. Rubey went out to teach that cat a thing or two and it had mysteriously disappeared.
Ever noticed that people often reflect back to you your own expression? If you walk down the street and smile at someone, they will usually smile back. If you look grumpy, they will look grumpily back at you. If you get cross with someone, frequently they will get cross back. If we speak rudely, most people will speak back rudely. The problem is, then everyone goes off feeling grumpy and we're all more inclined to snap at the next person we meet, and so the circle of grumpiness grows.
As Christians, we are called to break this circle of grumpiness. How? When someone snaps at us, we respond with gentleness. After all, we don't know what's happened to make them so grumpy in the first place. It may be that they are desperate for someone to show them kindness, whether or not we think they deserve it.
Jesus taught us to "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."
Proverbs 15:1 reminds us that "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger"
And Proverbs 17:9 "One who forgives and affront fosters friendship and one who dwells on disputes will alienate a friend."
If it seems like everyone else is grumpy with me, perhaps it's time to stop and ask, are they reflecting back my own grumpiness? If we show kindness to someone it might encourage them to show kindness to someone else and so on. Who knows what a difference it will make!