Most of us are familiar with the infamous break-up cliche, "It's not you, it's me." We laugh at it because we assume it to be an obvious misstatement. It is a phrase used by the person initiating the break up--so we assume that they must have a reason--something against the person with whom they are splitting that has led them to this action. And so for the person who has decided it is time to break off the relationship to say, "Its not you, its me" fails to capture our imagination as to what led to the ending of the relationship.
However, in pastoral ministry, I have learned that sometimes--broken/hurting relationships are not always about us. In fact a core Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) training point is that we (people/pastors included) often become defensive because we fail to see that when a person is angry at us, we are not always the reason such anger is being experessed.
Recently a friend with a very sick child posted on his facebook page a picture stating that "Jesus is the Great Physician." An atheistic/agnostoc "friend" responded that it was childish and silly to think that God heals people. (see my post on "Truthiness" for how we come to say things online that we might not say in person). My first thought was that this person had picked the worst possible time to debate "theology," and I almost responded before thinking better of it.
I remembered something. "Its not me... its you." The person who made that comment was not talking to his "friend" who had posted the picture or really to anyone else. He was working out his own issue with faith or lack thereof. Had such a statment been made to me while one of my children was sick, my initial inclination would be to become angry: "What is wrong with you?" The funny thing is I typically don't get angry in theological discussions. If I had experessed such anger, any close friend of mine would wonder why I had responded so forcefully in light of a theological disagreement. They would have to remember the context that I had a sick child. Suddenly my response is not about the person to whom I am responding but rather it is about what might be going on in my own life.
For this reason, I encourage everyone to remember that when someone acts or responds to you in a way that feels inappropriate, or even angers you--it may not be about you. It may be about them... Jesus said, "You must not oppose those who want to hurt you. If someone slaps you on your right cheek, you must tirn the left cheek to them as well. When they wish to haul you to court and take your shirt, let hem have your coat too. When they force you to go one mile, go with them two." Why would Jesus teach his disciples to be so passive--to not stick up for themselves?
I believe it is because Jesus realizes that when a person slaps you--its not all about you. There is something going on in their heart. If we respond as if their slapping us was about us, we fail to allow the space for them to come to know what it is that is going on in them. So today, if your coworker lashes out--don't assume it is about you, they might be dealing with problems at home. How can you love them? If your spouse suddenly explodes with anger at an apparently small thing--they might have had a bad day. Sometimes it really isn't about you...