This afternoon I made a routine trip to a local grocery store to pick up a couple of items for my wife. Nothing complicated, just mushrooms and hair spray. Since I didn’t require a shopping cart it didn’t take more than two minutes for me to navigate the two aisles I needed that were busy with the afternoon drive time grab a quick meal and a gallon of milk crowd.
I made my way to the check out lanes, eyeing that elusive short line that would let me pay and hit the exit without breaking my stride. I selected the best option and waited for the person in front of me to pay so I could head home. Lost in no particular thought, my trance was broken by a shrieking woman in the lane to my right.
“Where are your #%&@ peanuts! You told me they were in aisle four, and they are no where to be found. Can’t you people get anything right?! I can’t believe you don’t even know where you keep something as basic as peanuts!”
The cashier was a little taken back by the attack which escalated in volume with each and every punctuation mark. Shoppers across the front of the store buried their eyes in their order, needlessly rearranging their groceries on the conveyer belts before them. Co-workers scanned items with a quicker pace as if their speed would shut the customer up. The cashier, in the meantime, was patient and gracious and spoke calmly to the angry woman. The more she talked, however, the madder the she became, repeating her profanity laden tirade louder than before, demanding a manager. When the manager came he asked what the problem was, and as you can imagine, got an ear full. He told her the peanuts were in aisle four. The woman followed the manager down aisle four, which by the way was marked, in part with a sign, “Snack Nuts.” And within 60 seconds they returned with her nuts from aisle four.
One would think that the woman who couldn’t find the peanuts in aisle four would offer an apology to the cashier she attacked. Or at least some lame excuse about having a bad day at work or how her lousy husband forgot to get the nuts the night before. Instead, she offered the following parting shot. “I can’t believe you people wouldn’t help me find the peanuts. If I had shopped at (your competitor), they would have dropped everything and gone and got them for me. All you did was stand there.” With that, she swiped her plastic money, grabbed her bag, and left, leaving her cart in front of the register as a final act of defiance.
Just plain rude.
I apologized to my cashier and told him that I understood how hard it can be to deal with the public. After I paid for my two items I turned to the cashier who had maintained her poise with dignity and apologized for the woman’s treatment. I took the cart that remained and pushed it to the entrance of the store on my way out the door.
I have to confess that the woman’s rudeness really bothered me. Silently I was thankful that she wasn’t wearing a Christian T-shirt. I didn’t run out to see if her car had a Jesus fish on the bumper, but I hope it didn’t. I hope she wasn’t a believer, because then I could at least have a reasonable expectation and explanation for why she chose to emotionally dismantle another member of our species. All because she couldn’t find the peanuts. And because an employee was simply doing her job.
Unfortunately, we Christians sometimes act the same way. Just plain rude. We may not have full voiced outbursts of rage, but we who are fallen can still lose ourselves in ourselves to such an extent we do and say stupid things. You know what I’m talking about. The big eye roll. The exaggerated heavy sigh. The smirk. The sarcastic comeback. It doesn’t matter, rude is rude, and it needs to be eliminated from our interactions with others. James wrote something about the contradiction of speaking words of blessing and cursing from the same mouth. He basically calls the behavior ridiculous.
As I drove out of the parking lot, I prayed and asked God to protect me from being just plain rude. As I prayed, God reminded me that the behavior of rudeness is rooted in something deeper: pride and arrogance. So I adjusted my prayer accordingly. Just plain rude? That she was. And we can be too when pride and arrogance rears its head in our character.