A few weeks ago, I wrote about “Sal, my no so pal” – the angry, bitter male customer who calls and says awful things to myself and my coworkers in the midst of his complaints. It’s been a while since I heard from him but he called the other day – in fact, he called two days in a row. And, surprisingly, he was quite civil – at least for him.
When he called the first day, he had a long list of complaints, but, as per his m.o., he had to level an insult at me first. The first thing out of his mouth after I said my greeting was: “I’ve talked to you before and talking to you gives me heartburn. Talking to anyone in your company gives me heartburn.” This time, I didn’t react to his bait. No sarcasm and snide remark back to him, just silence. After an awkward moment of nothing, he launched into his mostly frivolous complaints. The conversation went well – professionalism on my part; restrained anger on his. He had no racist comments, no nasty insults (just a few ‘mild’ ones) and very little cursing. 8 or 9 minutes later when he had disconnected I realized something was different.
Was it him or was it me? Will this new truce between us be a one-time occurrence or will it continue on? Why was he so nice – well, nice for him? And why was I so non-reactive to his issues and anger? Time was – just a few weeks ago – when he could reduce me to cursing, frustration and tears.
Based only upon my telephone experience with him on this day, Sal remains full of anger, bitterness, hurt, and above all, fear. He still believes he’s right and the whole world is wrong; that the world will bow down to what he wants and when it doesn’t he lashes out; and he seems to have no positivity in him at all. Has he changed? Will he change? That remains for God to sort out and me to probably never know.
What has changed is me – and praying for the spiteful man has helped change me. I say ‘spiteful’ not as a slur or insult but as an interpretation of his actions toward me. I’ve learned to pray for him even though he tells me I’m worthless. I pray for him because I don’t see him as a mean person anymore. I see him as a deeply injured child of the same God I worship, serve, and love. I am trying to see Sal as God sees him – hurt, in pain, full of fear – trying to defend himself the only way he knows – through anger and rage.
Only God is able to break through Sal’s rock-hard wall that surrounds his heart. Such deeply ingrained hurt cannot be healed by any means other than the Spirit of God. Drugs (prescription or illegal), therapy, incarceration or alcohol are all just band-aids on a huge gaping, smelly, rotten, foul wound.
While I am a proponent of therapy and some prescription drugs, my own rotten wounds didn’t fully begin to heal until I turned to God. Only God has been able to reach into my soul and heal injuries 30 – 40 – even 50 years old. I have more healing to be done – and it will be, in time, on God’s time.
So for now, I will continue to pray for Sal because as long as he walks upon this earth there is still time – for hope, for redemption, for healing, for love.