July 6, 2013

Person's reaction to 'No' says a lot

By MARY WHITE, Love Stories

---- — A while ago, one of our sons was talking with some of his friends. The friends were angry as they felt that a young lady had mistreated our son. They asked him, “Why don’t you ever say anything bad about her?” Our son’s response? “My dad wouldn’t, so I don’t.” Wow.

I often tell teenagers that someone who bashes an ex will someday bash them, too. I encourage them to observe how a potential romantic partner treats other people, especially past friends and loves. 

This test could be applied to any relationship, in any phase of life. To me, a true measure of a person is how they react to the word “No.” Upon hearing it, do they reject whoever uttered it? Launch a smear campaign on that person? Walk out, perhaps?

What about hurt? I am learning that the question isn’t whether we will get hurt, but what will the hurt reveal? Will our relationship survive betrayal? And what if I am the inflictor? Am I brave enough to stay and mend the break? I can’t say which role is more comfortable for me, forgiver or forgiven. They are both tough, and my natural inclination is to bail. I have, however, been forgiven by some of the best people I know. And I hated it. I hated that I hurt them. I hated that I was exposed. But I am honored to wear their forgiveness.

What about breakups? How easy is it to accept that we are no longer wanted? I find that human nature demands a final score for any breakup; a winner and a loser. When two people part, though, it usually has something to do with both of them, and mostly that something is only between the two of them. Rumors and side-taking blur the real issue; that two people loved and lost and have to go on. Would blame change any of that? 

When our first baby was born, I tortured myself with “what if” scenarios in which I needed to save him. As I envisioned each dangerous scene, I would face an imaginary crisis where there was no escape. My mind would go blank. I couldn’t see the next step. On one of these pseudo-sick adventures, my mind offered, “Well, I guess the baby would die.” Impossible. Death was not an option for our baby. But, it’s always a possibility, isn’t it? Sooner or later, it is a certainty.

Death seems like the ultimate “No” from God. Indignant, we fight this answer and rage against God for giving it. The other day I had a question that only my cousin could answer, but she isn’t here. I don’t know why. I don’t know why I won’t get to talk with her again or travel with her like we said we might (and probably wouldn’t have). I don’t know why her story stopped; why God needed it to stop.

Recently, a coworker told me that a friend of hers was dying. It would be a matter of days. She had mutual friends who shared her grief, and she said, “We are all feeling it … like a haunting.”

During this time, there seemed to be an otherness to my coworker. I felt as if she were floating between our daily work space and the space where her friend lay dying. It seemed right and sad that friends in separate places were tethered to this same dimming light; as if mankind slowed to acknowledge one small, tired life as it loosened and let go.

I am no expert on loss. I do believe, however, that we have it all wrong. We view death as an ending, an unbearable defeat. But I think death is the middle part of our story, and God’s outwardly cruel “No” is really a gentle “not here.” It is a sorrowful “to be continued.” When we were babies, we learned that objects exist even when beyond our view. Have we forgotten that? Have we forgotten that outside of our minute vantage point there is a creator who loves us and a savior to guide us, if only we will walk with him through this unchartered, unfathomable blessing called life?

Mary White is from the Malone area. She and her husband have five children, eight cats, two dogs and three guinea pigs. She has had the privilege of working with children and families (her own and other people’s) for more than 20 years. For more of her columns, visit