I want to apologize for my husband’s insensitivity.
Ok, and mine too.
But first his.
When we traveled recently to Palestine my goal was just to keep my head down, my mouth closed, and not cause an international incident. As it turns out, maybe that should have been John’s goal.
One day as we were preparing to go out and about, wanting to make new friends in this foreign culture, we received a little shoe lecture from our friend, Brian Duss, who works with World Vision in Bethlehem.
He told us that in the Arab culture the bottom of your foot, or shoe is considered unclean and to cross your legs so that the sole of your shoe is exposed is a serious no-no.
Remember the guy who threw his shoe at President Bush a few years ago? That was the worst insult he could hurl (literally and figuratively). Anyway, we were warned NOT to cross our legs when we were with our Middle Eastern hosts.
The shoe lecture apparently didn’t hit home with John. As a result he may have set US/Palestinian relations back a decade.
The night of the shoe talk, a friend of ours graciously took us to visit a Muslim family in Ida refugee camp in Bethlehem. As we were enjoying the Turkish coffee they offered, the wife and their baby were sitting next to John. John immediately crossed his leg and started “playing” with the baby, nudging her with his foot!
No, no, NO!
I, being the good wife I am, gave him “the LOOK”. But he glared right back at me and continued!
I put my hand firmly on his leg and he glared at me again, like “What are you doing woman!?? I’m making friends with the baby! I’m building a cross-cultural relationship!”
Desperate, I considered saying, “Ixnay on the oeshay”, but these people speak at least 5 languages and I figured one of them was bound to be Pig Latin so that was out.
After at least 20 minutes of this John finally uncrossed his legs and I gripped his thigh like in a vice. Gradually a look of awareness crossed his face and he behaved til we left, thankful for the patience, grace and understanding of our hosts who didn’t kick us out of their house in disgust.
So, I apologize to the Arab world for John. And while I’m at it, I apologize for that time last year when he asked our waitress when she was due and she wasn’t pregnant.
But, world, I also apologize for me.
I was pretty relentless giving John a hard time about this international insensitivity, but there have been so many times when I’ve been clueless too...
- Giving Maggie “spiritual advice” when she’s having a bad day and just needs a listening ear and someone to say “I’m so sorry.”
- Talking about the delight of our daughters’ accomplishments with someone whose kids are struggling, or with someone who hasn’t been able to have kids…
- Sharing about the joy my husband brings me with someone who longs to be married and isn’t…
I know you understand, world. Sometimes, we’re all just thoughtless and make mistakes and we all need to smear a lot of grace around like frosting on a cake that came out a little lumpy.
Many times it isn’t even that we’re so self-absorbed…we’re just not other-aware enough. Like when Hillary Swank accidentally went to the birthday party of that Chechen warlord. Oops.
But still, I want to apologize.
Today, when I walk into a room I’m going to try to take the time to stop and see the individuals as beloved children of Jesus.
Today I’m going to try to take Paul’s advice more to heart and “Consider others as more important” than myself.
Today I’m going to see if can I make the other the most important person in the conversation.
And today I’m going to slather grace around when others may be insensitive to me, because, well, we’ve all been there.
Shoe Boy and Clueless Girl
Have there been times when you’ve been made aware of your own insensitivity? What have you learned?