Everybody Isn't Out to Hurt You
Some time after this, King Nahash of the Ammonites died, and his son Hanun became king. David said, “I am going to show loyalty to Hanun just as his father, Nahash, was always loyal to me.” So David sent ambassadors to express sympathy to Hanun about his father’s death. But when David’s ambassadors arrived in the land of Ammon, the Ammonite commanders said to Hanun, their master, “Do you really think these men are coming here to honor your father? No! David has sent them to spy out the city so they can come in and conquer it!” So Hanun seized David’s ambassadors and shaved off half of each man’s beard, cut off their robes at the buttocks, and sent them back to David in shame. (2 Samuel 10:1-4 NLT)First, let me admit that while the reaction of the Ammonite commanders, the servants of Hanun, is incorrect, it is understandable. When we read 2 Samuel 8 we see that David had subdued the Philistines, conquered the land of Moab, destroyed the forces of Hadadezer, and killed 22,000 Arameans. David's military victories were legendary. It seemed everywhere he led his army, he was triumphant. Hanun’s servants had heard of David’s military success. Therefore, they assumed and advised Hanun based upon their limited observation of David’s rapidly expanding kingdom. Hanun’s servants incorrectly assumed that David was using military strategy to spy on and then conquer them.
They could not have been more wrong.
King David sent his delegation of ambassadors to convey his sincere condolences, but Hanun did not take their words of condolence at face value. He did not hear their sympathy as sincere. He and his advisors figured, “David’s got something up his sleeve!”
They mistook his kindness for evil. David had enjoyed a great relationship with Hanun’s father Nahash. David was a compassionate human being. David wept when his son Absalom was killed. That is, the very son who was trying to overthrow his own father to rob him of the throne. David was the kind of man who would empathize with you — he would rejoice with you when you won and he would weep with you when you mourned. David’s friend Nahash had died. David did what any decent head of state who could not personally visit the bereaved would do, he sent some representatives to say, “King David is sorry for your loss.”
This passage pricked my heart because it highlights the truth that something happens to many of us that causes us to lose faith in people. Too many of us are suspicious of everyone. We walk around looking at everybody with a side eye. When someone comes to us with a compliment, we’re trying to figure out what their real motive is because we assume that they must be trying to get something out of us.
Some of us preachers can’t receive a compliment from a member at the door after a sermon without wondering, “What?! Do they think I preach poorly every other week?” We’ve all met people who, when given a kind remark about their clothing, quickly flip the compliment into an insult assuming that the person is criticizing how they usually dress. I’ve met some women in public who seem angry that a man even says hello. Wake up! Every compliment is not a backhanded insult about every other interaction with you. (And sistas, every man who is polite to you is not trying to get you in his bed!)
What bad experience deposited the cornerstone of doubt into your mind so that you interpret every affirmation as a cover for something nefarious? Who sowed a seed of cynicism into your spirit that you can’t accept a compliment without suspicion? Who so poisoned your perspective on people so that you are unable to graciously receive a kindness?
Everybody isn’t out to hurt you. Some people really mean what they say.
Hanun’s mistake is that he had surrounded himself with people whose perspective was jaundiced. Instead of Hanun going back to the positive memories he would have had as a young prince watching King David’s interactions with his father King Nahash, he listened to people who saw life through their own cloudy lenses.
You ought to be careful who you take advice from. If you are a young man who wants to have a wife that loves you and children that honor you, watch the advice you receive from men who are mysogynistic and think that when the lady of your life disagrees with you she needs to be “handled” and put in her place. If you are a single woman who is looking for a good man, watch out taking advice from a bunch of cranky single women who were themselves unable to keep a man.
People get hurt. And often they don’t do the hard work of healing from those painful experiences. They carry those nasty wounds with them infecting everyone they can with their poisonous perspectives on people. Let me tell you something: if you don’t learn how to filter the advice you receive, you won’t detect that their counsel has been laced with the cyanide of cynicism that is the outgrowth of their own painful experiences. I’m trying to tell you something: everybody isn’t out to hurt you!
I don’t have the research to prove this, but I find that people who feel unempowered often give the absolute worst advice. They’ll tell you what you’ll never be able to accomplish because of their own painful failure. They’ll warn you about making an entrepreneurial attempt because their own attempt resulted in embarrassment and loss. They’ll tell you all about what’s wrong with the opposite sex because they chose the wrong romantic partner. If you want to live the John 10:10 life, be careful whose counsel you take to heart.
What happens in the biblical story? Well, we find that Hanun ended up offending David. These advisors to Hanun turned an ally into an enemy. That’s the second thing I’m trying to convey: your uninformed biases can turn allies into enemies. When you turn potential allies into enemies, your world becomes very small.
I’ve often heard the phrase, “I can do bad all by myself!” I guess that’s true. But it’s equally true that being “all by yourself” gets lonely quickly.
If you are independent you can always make ends meet. If you’re independent, you can work hard and put food on your table. But the aim of life is not simply to be independent; it’s to be interdependent. God said, “It is not good that man should be alone.” The only path to interdependence is through the development and cultivation of relationships of trust.
I admit it — some folk are going to hurt you. Some. But somebody is not everybody. I’ll go further to say that some bodies are not everybody. (That was for those of you who have been hurt more than once.) When you get hurt, cry. Tell God all about it. But then heed the inspiring words often quoted by Dr. Benjamin F. Reaves, my college president when I attended Oakwood University: “I’m hurt!” Sir Andrew Barton cried. “I’ll lay me down and bleed awhile. But then I’ll get up and fight again!” Don’t quit on all people because of a few ‘bad apples.’
Drs. Cloud and Townsend in their seminal work “Boundaries” suggest that our lives are like fields with fences. (I’m paraphrasing now.) Those fences must have gates. Why gates? The gates must be there to let the bad out; and to allow the good in.
If you will become all that God intended, you will not do it alone. No man is an island. Learn to let the good people God is sending your way into your life …. because everybody isn’t out to hurt you.