To my knowledge, I’ve only had one neighbor that hated my guts.
And I hated her back.
My wife and I had just bought our first house, in Denver, a place where the cheapest houses aren’t very cheap. You’d think after paying all that $$ you’d at least get a decent neighbor.
On our first night, Elaine called my attention to the old, beat up, crappy van that was parked in full view of our living room window. Our neighbor parked it in front of our house because she didn’t want to look at it from her living room window.
She was older, super wealthy, apparently, and kept the old van for sentimental reasons. I never said anything about it – felt too weird to begin our relationship with a complaint.
That was the first of many annoyances.
At the time, I was attempting to start a church – something I would later learn I’m not very good at. I was stressed out most of the time and didn’t have much time for the people closest to me, much less a crazy neighbor.
Long story short, all the bad neighbor stuff she threw my way I returned in kind.
After a few years, things finally blew up.
My dog yipped a few times from our porch one evening and bad neighbor let me have it – she YELLED, standing in her yard, loud enough for the whole neighborhood to hear.
At this point, I wasn’t just fed up with her, I was fed up with feeling guilty about the way I typically responded to her crap. Here I was, a “pastor” constantly adding fuel to this horrible relationship.
So I went to her house and knocked on the door.
It was the last place on earth I wanted to be.
And oh my God the look on her face when she opened the door. Death? Demons? She didn’t look like she wanted to kill somebody, she looked like she had freshly killed somebody. It was scary, especially for someone who has issues with female anger.
I asked why she was so mad at me and she ran down her list:
1. I frequently talked “boisterously” on my phone in the back yard
2. I got grass in her yard when I mowed mine
3. Barking dog
4. Our cat pooped in her flower bed on a daily basis
5. One time I cleaned the lawn mower and green water got on her sidewalk
6. Barking dog
7. Pooping cat
I can’t tell you how much I wanted to rifle back with my own list, it was far longer and much more impressive than hers.
But somehow I mustered the maturity/courage to aplogize, and promised to take care of everything on the list.
I will never forget how the countenance on her face changed in that moment. It was as if nobody had ever apologized to her before. And I can assure you that it had been a long time since I said “sorry” to anyone.
After that day, we became best friends. Tai Chi on Tuesdays, Scrapbooking together every Sunday morning…
I can’t say that we ever had a great relationship, but it changed drastically that day, and she started parking the van out back. And all it took was a simple apology and a shock collar for the cat.
I will say this about my neighbor, and hang with me here, I don’t want you to miss my meaning.
She was an asshole.
And living next door to an asshole, and being one myself, has taught me a most important truth about assholes.
There’s not an asshole alive that wants to be an asshole.
And there’s one thing we all have in common – there have been multiple times in our lives where someone was an asshole to us. We’ve been disrespected, mistreated, handled poorly, shut down, etc.
That doesn’t give us persmission to be an asshole, but it does shed some light on why so many people are hard to get along with.
Assholery begets assholery.
So, if you live next door to an asshole, or if you work with one, or, if like my wife you’re married to one, assholing them back simply isn’t a good idea. At the least, it doesn’t fall under the category of “love thy neighbor.”
One cannot become an asshole without being treated poorly by someone else. By default, one cannot stop being an asshole without another human being treating them with kindness.
Therapy won’t do it. You can’t think your way out of it. The only way out is kindness. People caused the problem, and it’s only through people that a solution can be found.
Kindness isn’t just a good thing, it has the power to heal, to undo all the crap that unkindness causes.
I know, retaliation feels good, and there are times when we need to call people out. But when we’re dealing with someone who’s really struggling, who’s clearly been mishandled by humanity, kindness is the only way to go.
And we all know, cheesy as this will sound, that kindness changes us too. The more we act like God, the more we wield His weapons, the more we become like Him, yada, yada, end of sermon, etc.
I’d love to end this post with something profound and moving, but I’m camping. It’s currently 27 degrees, and dropped down to 19 last night, and super windy.
I’m on my second cup of instant coffee, and slept narely a wink last night.
Peace out friends.
And please leave comments – good, bad, negative, whatever. I love it when y’all let me know what you’re thinking….