Thank you for sharing this vignette. It reveals a lot (good) about you.
The woman who invaded your space, placing a hand on your shoulder, then speaking about your acne, clearly felt her power as owner of the only shop open for miles around. Furthermore, she probably thought herself well-meaning, telling you what others wouldn’t, or didn’t notice. Very egocentric people have trouble identifying with others and imagining themselves on the receiving end of their actions. Instead their mindset can be “It is important for you to know how I feel about how you make me feel.” Combine this with the notion that “manners,” and observing boundaries, are reserved for strangers and people we don’t like, and you get people whose friendliness manifests in the kind of confrontation you experienced.
Yet you did not put her in her place. One reason was the power differential, that you needed those ingredients for the next day, and telling her to mind her own business may have imperiled that. Another reason was the surprise of it, and your instinct is to avoid conflict and please the aggressor. (This strategy helps crime victims survive a criminal encounter, but it encourages crime by making it easy for the criminal). And a third reason is that even after she invaded your space, literally AND verbally, you still wanted her to think well of you. For reasons I wish I understood better, some people’s words have such power over us while other people’s words are so easily dismissed.
One of the elevating aspects of your telling the story is that you did not attribute all malice to the woman and dismiss her with an explicative. There are whole organizations that externalize evil, demonizing everyone who does not agree with them, or even everyone who does not share their particular characteristics (because, “he who is not for me is against me”). Instead, you considered the situation as a whole, and explored your own vulnerabilities in that regard. There is great wisdom in this because we usually cannot change others, only ourselves (difficult as THAT may be).
I also appreciate the realism, or maybe it’s the balance, with which you describe the situation. At first, with your husband yelling at you from the car, I expected an unsupportive relationship between you, but discovered that the reverse was true (praise God!). Clearly your relationship is not perfect at all times, but you do not allow the perfect to become enemy of the good, and this is another elevating aspect of this particular writing.
For years, I taught middle school grades, and those kids thought of themselves as either the best or the worst, sometimes flipping from one perspective to the other. When we see ourselves exclusively through our flaws, or through the one flaw that we cannot change NOW, we are falling back into that immaturity, and the self-consciousness that characterizes early adolescence. When we accept ourselves, warts and all, we are less vulnerable to what other people think. The one exception is the people who actually know us best. Our words to our families- to our parents, children, and spouse, in that order, are increasingly powerful for good or evil.
No one knows us better than our heavenly Father. When we were created He pronounced us very good. After sin messed us up, Christ came to empower us with forgiveness, and to give the Spirit’s presence for healing body and soul. We have that message to deliver to those who we share life with. I believe that this is the call we have to our families, and to our spouses especially, to affirm the good, call it out, encourage it. Forgiveness of failure and acceptance of imperfection enable us to get this far, but to hear that we are loved by the person who knows us best is the most powerful force for good in the world.
And yet, a stranger’s words about a flaw can seem to weigh us down. Thanks for sharing your struggle to overcome this voice of doubt.