I’ve been thinking a lot this last year about hostility vs. hospitality.
A few years ago I began to have this hormonal imbalance issue which, when untreated, leads to varying degrees of unreasonable irritability (among other things). Of all of the side effects, this one is the most bothersome to me. Thankfully, I can recognize the difference between my own normal reactions and those that are caused by spiking hormones. It’s helpful that I can know something with my mind and act on that knowledge even when my emotions tell me to be verbally or physically violent. I’m thankful for this for many reasons.
At the same time, I’ve been noticing how much hostility there is within me that is not caused by hormones. These are the petty reactions, the selfish assumptions, the ungenerous decisions. They come from a deeper place that I can’t quite dig out.
Talking with a student and another staff person recently, we discussed how studying the Bible reveals what is really within us the same way that tragedy or opposition might. The student and the other staff person shared what had been uncovered about themselves and as I began to share, I was a little surprised to recall the main thing studying the Bible had brought out of me last year. Anger….
This might be surprising to others, as it was to me. A few weeks ago a very nice woman who lives in this community where I also live told me that when she sees me she gets this sense that I am so peaceful and full of calm joy. Somehow she only sees me smiling and being kind. Of course, she doesn’t work closely with me, just sees me around and talks with me occasionally. But still there is the general opinion (at least among the people who like to make such comments) that I am often happy.
This is not a “show” that I put on for watching eyes. I believe that it absolutely matters how I treat people and that even when I’m having the worst day, others don’t need to feel whatever negative things I may be feeling. I know I can impact people with my emotions and I am not so much lying to people about how I feel, as I am seeking to not infect them. If I feel bad and am asked, I will not lie and say I feel fine.
All of that comes around to this anger and hostility which the Bible revealed in me and which I have been observing more and more this last year. The thing I am grateful to realize is that, when I look back on my life I can see growth. Blind rage in high school, obsessive anger in my 20’s and now it is a hostility that I can recognize, analyze and at least usually adjust my expression of.
A good friend of mine just recently became a Christian and he was sharing how appalled he is to notice his anger toward other people, how it’s ugly and discouraging. I told him that it’s actually positive that he finally notices and is able to really see these people who have angered him. He wouldn’t have noticed them before, but simply gone on judging them as stupid or annoying.
In a similar way, I’m encouraged to see this deeper rooted hostility because it does feel like I’m closer to seeing it gone.
I’m also fascinated to consider hospitality as the opposite of hostility. This helps me in moments when I feel the edges of hostility poking me sharply. Hospitality is not just showing people a good time when you invite them over. It’s a kind of welcoming, making room for, showing generosity toward need and gentleness toward faults.
I don’t know how much of my self-disection you want to hear, but I’ve been bringing this often before God and seeking healing for whatever wounds with which this originates. I’m actually not sure where it comes from and why it is so deep. I am sure, though, that God knows and will lead me through.
I’d also love to hear your thoughts on hostility vs. hospitality. Is there something else surfacing that you see God wants to heal?