Wednesday, May 11, 2011

smiling & waving

This priest's wife has deeply saddened and disappointed a beloved parishioner. She can't bring herself to talk to me and so she must turn to the president of the parish council for counsel. What have I done?

During Bright Week, I sent out this email invite for an after-Liturgy lunch celebrating Father's birthday the next Sunday:

Christ is Risen! Cristos a inviat!
You are invited to:
Divine Liturgy & Dinner celebrating Fr---'s 37th birthday

April 30th 5:30 Divine Liturgy & 7:00 Dinner
--- Chapel at the corner of  ---
or
May 1st 11:30 Divine Liturgy & 1:00 Lunch
--- Church

Your presence is your gift- Bring a dish to share and a guest

Just a bit of harmless fun (so I thought) and an excuse to invite semi-regular parishioners back to church (yes- there is church outside of Easter and Christmas). The saddened parishioner in question was disappointed that I didn't BCC all the names to whom I emailed the invite (in 15 years of emailing, I have never BCCed and I never received a complaint- but I suppose I was wrong all along). I made a huge error in that I just emailed the invite and people could see the other email addresses. She shared her concerns with the president of the council who shared it with my husband who talked to me. 

So officially, I still don't know. But now I know why she wouldn't speak to me last Sunday. I assumed that she was upset on Mother's Day because she has lost her mother in the past year. That is probably still a big part of it, but when a woman barely says 'hi' when she normally kisses and hugs you and fawns over your children, you know something is up.

Seeing this written down, it seems so silly. But this is my life. I try so hard to be friendly and helpful, but things like this can still come back and bite. I know when I have been sinful, but this wasn't one of those times. The Bible states that if someone sins against you, you go directly to that person and confront them. If the person doesn't apologize and doesn't try to make amends, then you go to the elders. I wish I had the chance to apologize before this became a wedge in our relationship. I don't know how far it has gone- so do I just 'smile and wave?' 

34 comments:

  1. I am so sorry you are going through a disturbing situation, these situations are so uncomfortable.All shall pass.Smiling and waving sounds great to me.I just wanted you to know I'm still out here in blogland listening and learning.I don't even know if you remember me.I'm the Little old protestant (foursquare) lady who always wanted to be a Nun.In my older years I love adding some of the Catholic ideas to my thoughts and conversations to Christ.I've been asking Him many quesions about the Catholic way.Could you please drop by my site and visit with me? Denise

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  2. Oh, PW, I feel for you. Something so terribly innocent and she gets upset with you and doesn't even tell you why. How hurtful. It sounds like she's got something that's eating at her and this was sorta that last straw. But still, totally unfair. I'm sure she'll come around when whatever it is gets better for her. Hugs.

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  3. Oh dear. Well she probably is protective of her privacy and email address. Next time you'll BCC and it will be 'all good'... I am not sure what to do in these situations - a bit passive aggressive in the 'i'm not communicating with you and not telling you why' - it's too bad she could not of just told you. But sometimes people don't know how to do that. Don't let this ruin your peace; pray for her and I hope all will be well :)

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  4. *sighs* You have to love the passive-aggressiveness of parishioners. I guess next time you'll BCC everybody; but seriously... this is not something over which she needs to have a hissy fit!!!!

    [/pastor's wife irritation]

    (Can you tell it's happened to me? MULTIPLE TIMES?!?!?!?!?)

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  5. Oh that's tough.

    I've also been on the other end of it, sort of. I once got someone very mad at me when he wrote and was so proud of some positive comments he'd received on a blog post of mine that he'd reproduced in its entirety on his facebook page. How to politely ask him not to reproduce my work without my permission without totally offending him? I gave it my best shot and failed and he was upset and I burned a potential friendship. This is why I'm so sensitive about drawing people's attention to bits of internet courtesy protocol that they may not be aware of. I do try to assume no ill will on the violator's part-- which it seems she didn't do. But as you say hurt feelings and missing her mother could have been a part of that.

    A charitable interpretation of her actions: maybe she went to the president of the council precisely because she realized her feelings were upset out of proportion to the offense and she thought approaching you indirectly through an intermediary might be safer than letting loose in your face? Having a fiery temper myself, I recognize that I have a hard time offering constructive criticism in a way that isn't offensive. I'm never sure how to deal with it when there's an issue that I know needs to be addressed but that my emotional investment is likely to make it a much bigger issue than it really warrants. (This is an ongoing communication issue in my marriage too. I don't say things sometimes because I know it's silly for me to be as upset as I am. But the not saying is also not so good, you know?)

    Perhaps a way to rebuild the bridge would be to humbly apologize to her for your offense? Sure, you didn't commit a sin; but you did something which hurt her even if it was not at all your intention. Yes, you weren't really in the wrong and she is just as much an offender for mishandling it.... but if you're the first to make a move, your being humble enough to admit you made a mistake could really help her to get over her hurt. Just a thought.

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  6. OK that hurt me just reading it. So many times I have been in a similar situation...and then it gets awkward. Ugh. Or I do something nice for someone and they can't seem to appreciate it...etc.

    Yeah, it's really too bad that she couldn't be honest with you--even via email itself! I'm preaching to the choir, but I hope you can feel some peace with the situation sooner than later. I know, it's hard to let stuff go.

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  7. Melanie B- First I was angry and irritated, but after 'processing' (really ranting) with my husband- I DO just want to apologize. I am surprised that she wants to keep her email address private because she is 'queen of the inspirational and funny forwards' to everybody- But in any case, I don't officially know that she is upset with me...I'm sure I'll figure it out by Sunday- thanks for the perspective and PRAYERS

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  8. Rabbit- yah- well...and I am the opposite of your screen name- I was so NOT in the mood to do any coordinating of anything after Holy Week and Easter, but I wanted to do a little something for my husband and the community...maybe my laziness with even getting the email out was God telling me to do it differently (maybe BCC or actual written invites?)

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  9. Jen- but you know it doesn't matter if my intentions were good...it is so hard to anticipate potentials problems...It could freeze me into doing nothing

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  10. Delateflute and Denise and everybody else- thanks for your kind words...it is funny because it is sort of a small thing and I know I didn't mean to hurt her. I'm sure there are other issues as well and I am sort of the scapegoat right now- but when your community is so small, you don't want to upset anybody- please pray for me (and her- she really is a lovely lady)

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  11. PW, I did the exact same thing a few months ago, except it was to Knight of Columbus groups! I never knew what BCC was! One of the KoC leaders flipped out about the youth center I work at and insisted that HIS was much better, and sent everyone reasons why. It was awful, and I learned the hard way. I've been there!

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  12. It sounded like you were beating up yourself in your reply to me--I hope that's not the case. :( I don't blame you for being the turtle then, it was a very busy time for you and your family. Was your intent good? Yes. You wanted to do something fun and nice. I know you said that the intent doesn't matter, but that's really her problem, not yours. She needed to take a deep breath and re-examine the situation before getting passive-aggressive. Would you feel comfortable emailing her (ironic, I know) or what about a simple handwritten apology? Hang in there. It's always so difficult when things like this can't be solved quickly and easily. :)

    About BCC--you know what's funny? MANY people don't know about it...and it's not always "front & center" in web mail clients (gmail, hotmail, etc.) You have to look for it. And usually, no one cares.

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  13. Time heals all wounds. Consider the source, but I'd tell her it was unintentional and to forgive this error. Even though she is acting badly, we have to break the paralysis of this relationship. I'd "offer it up" go through any pride problem I had and let it go.

    It will break the cycle of bondage the devil wants.

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  14. i'm sorry for what i'm going to say but at the same time i hope that parishioner is reading my comment: how UTTERLY and TREMENDOUSLY STUPID!! only someone with A LOT of free time would get upset with it.

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  15. Belen- be nice! ;) But it was funny because she sends my husband at LEAST 5 forwards a day (inspirational, political stuff)- so she is very 'out there' with her email. My main email has been mine since I got married 13 (!) years ago- and I have never really felt an invasion of privacy. I learned my lesson- but I think we should all take this silly problem and remember to go directly to the source of a problem

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  16. Dear sweet P.W.Thank you so much for your visit.Since I feel I'm getting to know you a tiny bit,I just wanted you to know me a tiny bit.I finally figured BCC is nothing relating to church but to E-mailing,am I right? TEEHEE.I still don't know what it is,maybe I'll google it.I don't want the same thing to happen to me but it will if I don't know about it.

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  17. Denise- it means 'blind carbon copy' so it is a way to send the same email to lots of people but each person only sees their address...I will be using it in the future!

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  18. Elizabeth,

    I would not be too dismissive of people who are protective of their e-mail addresses. Some people passed on my addresses and I ended up on all sorts of "Catholic" mailing lists, which were thinly disguised hate lists.

    Getting yourself off these lists can be difficult, and sometimes a thinly disguised threat from a lawyer is necessary.

    After this has happened a couple of times, you get a little touchy about people spraying your details around.

    In one case I came across an employee of a large corporation had his corporate e-mail address put onto a couple of lists. Most corporations allow their employees limited use of their resources for personal reasons ― however, there are limits. This man was brought in to be disciplined (and probably dismissed), until it was explained to the managers that he had little control over what was sent to him.

    Bear

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  19. Thanks Bear for your perspective- I learned my lesson where email is concerned- I just hope she talks to me directly!

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  20. Another ElizabethMay 14, 2011 at 5:15 PM

    If it makes you feel any better I don't even know what BCC meant till reading some of the comments about your post...and I'm not 30 yet, worked in the business world for about a year, and tutored an IT class (which might tell you how pathetic the IT class was).

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  21. another Elizabeth- I was talking to a friend who reads this top-secret blog. It is always good to get a different perspective because for me- to 'blind carbon copy' is sort of being sneaky- like I write an invite to one person and then BCC another to let them know it is going on- but then, I didn't know that email lists can be sold or used badly- so I will be BCCing in the future

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  22. Bear, any halfway decent e-mail provider allows you to mark something as spam and move on with your life :-). That aside Preoteasa, I'm sorry this turned into such a thing - I had a friend react similarly (he's rather particular about sharing his personal information), but he at least had the decency to talk to me about it directly. Sometimes it's hard to avoid offense, however hard you try...

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  23. PW, will you forgive my initial late night internet know-it-all comment, please? I am so sorry - I thought to myself as I was going to bed how much like a combox lecture that sounded, when I was trying to be encouraging. I am truly sorry, except about the part that you've been a fun and encouraging blog buddy. Thank you for that! Be well.
    (edit my silliness down to the last part, should you chose to publish and of it, will you? ;) )

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  24. After ten years of living in America, I still get moments when I am totally confused over why the other person got upset about a certain thing I did. I had a serious falling out with a few members of secular Carmelites over laughable matters. They wouldn't tell me, they would tell on me.
    Have American Catholics never heard of Matthew 18:15? Have hubby preach about it. It is unbiblical and immature to be telling on a fellow adult, yet it seems to be a common sport that can ruin a lot of relationships.

    Should you just smile and wave? I have no idea. When I tried to talk with my Carmelite superior about the issues, she was not comfortable enough to talk to me (really mature, I would say). None of the ladies involved (they are all 20+ years older than me) would even answer my emails when I tried to understand. So it seems to me that too many women here are not willing to talk, to confront directly and that anything you say might and shall be used against you. Keep that in mind.

    You are an amazing woman! You are in a position which most people don't understand. Sometimes all what we can do is to be compassionate even when we plainly don't understand the issues because from our "mature and superior" perspective, they are silly. But it is life.

    "It is for us who are strong to bear the susceptibilities of the weaker ones, and not to please ourselves." (Rom 15:1)

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  25. Well, it certainly feel bad to be the target of such unpleasantness. However, if you felt you had a good relationship with this person in the past, then it is important to go to her and tell her that you did not know it was bad to send such a blanket email. You did not know it would hurt her and you are sorry. And she will give you some lecture on why it was bad and you will smile and nod and then she will accept your apology. You will be forgiven and you will forgive her for her sensitivity. It will be good for both of your souls. But if this is not your nature then forgive her inwardly and this too will be good for your soul. However, your distress and healing may take longer to resolve.

    As a child I spent a lot of time worrying about such things and was quite tormented. But, somewhere along the way I learned that life is too short. For some reason God has granted me humility and patience for these matters, as an adult.

    Pray for God's grace.

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  26. Dear Priest's wife, at last I know from what country in Europe you are from! I'm myself from a country where there used to be a lot of oriental Catholics (a clue: the country of St Josaphat and St Euphrosyna), but they went through tsarists, orthodox and communists persecutions, and now they are only a very few, whith no bishop. But in your country, the Greek-Catholic Church is strong!
    Pax et Bonum

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  27. Cottage Child- I don't know how to edit a comment (I am new at blogging)- so I didn't publish your first comment even though I don't think there is anything wrong with it! :)

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  28. Anyone curious- so last Sunday, the upset parishioner was going to not talk to me for a third Sunday in a row! I thought- this is getting ridiculous- so I forced myself on her. In a way- it was great she was being so 'obvious' about ignoring me so I didn't need to bring up the person who told my husband what was happening....so she cried, I cried, and I hope all is well.

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  29. I have always enjoyed your posts. Because you have a fantastic blog, with a high readership it is with great humility that I offer this counsel and hope that you will take it to heart..

    Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.

    Proverbs 18:9

    What would your response be to your friend of which you have reconciled read this post? For lack of firewood a fire goes out, and where ther is no whisperer quarreling ceases. Proverbs 26:20
    Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from earnest counsel. Proverbs 27:9
    Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.
    Proverbs 16:24

    Blessings to you.

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  30. anonymous- Thanks for this- the verses are very good to remember...I think that the parishioner would see that I was trying to 'qualify' my confusion and hurt (calling her a "beloved"- which she is; explaining that I had never been informed in 13 years of emailing that group emails (really about 20 addresses)were bad).

    The 'problem' with Proverbs 26:20 is that she was calling and talking to many others about the mistake I had made- so there was a lot of 'whispering' on her part. I forced myself on her last Sunday and I can say we reconciled and are 'friends' again (she is 30 years older than I, so I don't know if she would consider me a friend). I don't know if she will call all the people she had told the mistake to tell the people that I am okay now- this is where I have to practice humility. She might have forgiven my mistake of the group email- but most of the people will never know that I went up to her and apologized...

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  31. I read the post again- sort of panicking because of the latest anonymous's comment. It might not show me to be the holiest person on earth- but yes, I could read this post to her and explain it and I think it would be alright. I THINK I have found a balance here- but maybe I am delusional...

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  32. This is anonymous again.

    I read your reply comments, and this is a response. We are all a bit delusional when it comes to seeing ourselves as we really are.
    We are often so careful to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt, and yet are so much less gracious in offering the same benefit of the doubt to other's when we are offended.

    Love your neighbor as yourself...Matthew 22:39b.

    It appears quite obvious that you were offended by her not coming to you. I read all the comments on the post, and I would be offended if I saw your post and it was about me, and then saw all the "chime" in's on everyone's opinion regarding me, when they only have one side of the story. Especially the one that called me "stupid."

    I would read Psalm 139, then pray and meditate on Psalm 139. Ask God to search you and show you if there is iniquity within you....He is gracious to gently show us our errors and pride when we humbly seek that end.

    Frankly, it is clear from scripture that this post should be deleted.

    Consider this "arrows from a friend."

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  33. Anonymous- you have given this a lot of thought and I appreciate it- I still disagree that I should take this post down. I wasn't offended that she didn't come to me with her problem- just really hurt that she would start spreading negative things about a mistake about putting out an email list when she does the same thing.

    You are very precise in your thoughts- so please look at the comment- I think a commenter said that "it" was stupid to get upset about being on an email list- not that the person was stupid. It is a small but very important difference.

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