Yesterday started with an apology. It was mine. The day before, after another difficult conversation with an employee who has trouble accepting responsibility for her actions, I got impatient and snapped at her. I shouldn’t have. Though I went home feeling completely justified for my actions, sometime during the night, I realized that, if I wanted her to accept responsibility for HER actions, then I had to accept responsibility for MINE. So I ate crow and apologized. I received no apology in return.

Yesterday ended with a rebuke. I got a letter from someone at our church who was “troubled” by something I’d said the last time I spoke in church. She wants to meet with me to talk about it.

Two bookends for an otherwise ordinary day. Somehow, the bookends overshadowed everything else in between. It was a productive day – I accomplished lots on my “to do” list at work, and led a very productive leadership meeting at church – and yet the only things I can think about are the two things that were difficult.

I like to think of myself as a fairly “evolved” person. I’m fairly emotionally mature, I have a reasonably healthy self esteem and don’t worry TOO much about what people think of me. I’ve been a manager and mother long enough that I’m used to making some unpopular decisions that people don’t always like me for. For the most part, I stand on my principles and argue my opinion even when it’s unpopular.

All of this is true, yet when two people disapprove of me in one day, it still cuts to the core. I could argue that, in both cases, I was justified and what I said wasn’t necessarily wrong (even though I could have said it in a better way). I could get self-righteous and say “too bad what YOU think.” But, no matter how I argue it and search for self-justification, it still hurts to be “out of favour”.

I’ve never been a particularly “popular” person, but I’ve never been “unpopular” either. I’ve gone through life being at least mildly liked by most people I deal with. This experience has challenged me to wonder…what if I felt I had to stand up for something that was particularly unpopular, and yet I felt that ethically and morally I couldn’t walk away? What if it meant that people would dislike me and say awful things about me?

I have great admiration for those people who have changed the world by standing up for unpopular things. I’m grateful for those who have stood against slavery, apartheid, oppression, patriarchal governments, injustice, wars, and religious intolerance despite being the objects of persecution and emotional abuse. I just wonder… could I do the same? Could I risk unpopularity for a cause? Could you?

Yesterday’s incidents will blow over. I’ll talk to both people again and smooth things over and we’ll continue to have relationships, of sorts. Neither of them was very serious, in the grand scheme of things. But I can’t help wondering what cause would be important enough for me to “lay down my pride” for.

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