A friend of a family member was convinced I gave her a dirty look.
I didn't know her, but she must have caught me either deep in thought, or perhaps looking just past her as one of my kids scarfed down a fifth bag of chips after having been told: "Just one!".
Who knows. But judgement had been secured. In her mind, I was obviously the type of person who would give dirty looks to people I don't even know. I've had a few incidents like this happen. I would imagine most of us have.
In sharing her experience, it's possible my family member believed the false assessment of the incident and it may have added momentum to the decay of my reputation through the lens of someone I cared about. It had the potential to become another brick in a series of misunderstandings and misinterpretations (of which I was oblivious) that would build a wall between us.
It hurt. But to be honest, what hurt the most was the realization that I was not living out the call of humility. I was swift to give in to the desire to be justified in the eyes of others - the need to be understood. I didn't want to be misinterpreted, or judged incorrectly and it revealed to me that pride had a strong hold on my heart.
When I look to the example of modern saints, I realize that I really have no right to plead my cause, if God's plan for my life doesn't require people to think highly of me - or even if it means someone believing the worst of me.
When John Paul II was about to be canonized, the haters aggressively raised their voices and pinned on this incredibly holy man, every complaint they had regarding the priesthood, the Church and even God Himself. This was someone who had positively impacted the world in a way that not one of his naysayers could even approach!
Similarly, when Mother Teresa was recently added among the ranks of the heavenly hosts, she was met with terrible hostility. It wasn't enough for her defamers to simply voice their opinion that she wasn't saint material. No. She was called evil!
Evil. Someone who gave up everything to live among the poorest of the poor, nurturing and loving those her critics wouldn't touch with a ten foot selfie stick! Giving herself to a point that her body became deformed and everything she owned or had been given had been selflessly offered to others.
Even with the support of numerous miracles (see here and here) that defy scientific explanation and countless testimonies that affirm their holiness and good character (both having immersed themselves in total self-giving), the negative comments continued to flow. I would imagine that the need to defame those who are holy is even greater than the need to point out the obvious faults in "ClinTrump". Because, if someone is definitively holy, then it would follow that their instruction or commentaries should be taken very seriously - and Mother Teresa did say that thing about respecting life at every stage that was pretty unpopular.
If they are truly saints, it means that we should be trying to live out our lives in a way that imitates their virtue. That means life changes! And that's ugly-hard work. It's easier to simply try and take them down a few thousand notches and then we no longer need to worry about changing our own ways.
But I have a feeling both saints would be okay with being misunderstood. In spite of yearning for souls and wanting to be used by God in a way that would draw all hearts to Him, I think they understood that sometimes there is even greater power in being persecuted, uniting their hearts to Christ, and being able to offer it all for the good of their dissenters.
Christ Himself was misunderstood, persecuted, hated:
If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. John 15:18
He was branded the worst kind of criminal and executed accordingly. Yet, look at the fruit that flowed from His ultimate sacrifice.
I've been finding great comfort in this passage my sweet sister sent my way. You may be familiar with it, as it's been circling the internet. Beautiful words from an authentically beautiful saint:
People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered;
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God;
It was never between you and them anyway.
~ Saint Teresa of Calcutta
My heart can rest easy knowing Heaven has the last say. God asks that we work on making ourselves ever more pleasing to Him, more selfless, more loving, more humble and to leave the matter of how we're perceived in His perfect hands.