lambaste or lambast
1 : to assault violently : BEAT, WHIP
2 : to attack verbally : CENSURE
*Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary Eleventh Edition
Have you ever lambasted a friend?
A long time ago, one of my coworkers read something I wrote about my fierce ungentle side, and cracked up.
I didn’t understand why he was laughing; my fierce ungentle side is one of my darkest secrets that I feel like everyone knows about. It’s that shameful thing I struggle to harness more than I struggle with any of my many other deep, dark secrets.
I asked my friend why he was laughing, and he said, “I just can’t imagine you being fierce.”
“Why not?” I asked.
“I don’t even know what fierce means to you,” he replied with a smile.
I got the feeling he thought me some delicate flower who wouldn’t hurt a fly, while I saw myself more like ol’ what’s-his-face from PSYCHO. I didn’t correct my friend, of course. He could think me perfectly gentle if he wanted to. Apparently I was decent enough at reigning in the wrath to fool him.
The last time I released the wrath (prior to a horrible thing I just did) was actually something like 8 years ago. Lambasting was a pretty common occurrence in the home I grew up in, and I was probably the one least-commonly a part of it. I liked to fly-under-the-radar as much as was possible, while my dad and my sister battled to see who was the stronger lambaster. My mom and I were quieter and less-likely to yell, although no one survives an environment like that without learning how to give out a proper verbal whipping too. By the time I was a senior in high school, I had a sharp tongue that I mostly used in self-preservation, but a lambasting in self-defense is no less dangerous than one intended to wound.
That’s what’s so hard about what I did to Mike.
Had I wanted to hurt him, it would be different, but the truth is that I didn’t think about him at all. Had I thought about him, I would have remembered that he’s the guy who showed me what gentleness is. Prior to knowing Mike, I couldn’t even fake gentleness; PSYCHO was all that was in me. Mike is the guy who helped me through the last good lambasting my sister ever gave me. He’s the one who told me what to say and how to care about her as she lambasted me. He’s the one I meant to always encourage. I’m a decent encourager most of the time, and I directed my efforts towards Mike a lot of the time because he does things that are so hard… Mike would save the world if he could.
I wish I wanted to save the world. I wish I’d remembered on Saturday and Sunday that Mike wants to save it; it’s impossible to lambast a guy who wants to save the world unless you forget that about him for a moment.
When Mike looks at his backyard, he sees fertile soil. He does whatever it is gardeners do to irrigate and whatnot, and he plants seeds. Soon enough, his once-barren backyard is bearing fruit that nourishes and feeds.
I bought a basil plant a month or so ago. Everyone told me that Basil is hardy and I wouldn’t be able to kill it. “You can grow it inside or outside,” they said, “in a pot or in the ground. It’s all golden.”
My Basil plant is already dead.
I’m not using that example as self-deprecation. I’m saying it because I’ve known ever since I went to Mongolia that my lot in life isn’t to be a planter… it’s to encourage the planter so he has the fuel, motivation and hope it takes to go out to the garden every day and plant.
That’s one of the reasons that my lambasting of Mike sucked.
Of course there are a lot of reasons it sucked, but I think the most miserable is that I forgot what God made me for; i forgot that I’m not here to take care of myself. The only way I’ve been able to keep my tongue in check for the past 8 years was to focus on the other person – on what I needed to say to enable him/her to nourish the garden. The moment I stopped to look at myself, I forgot it was my job to encourage the gardener.
When I was little, those two words were these annoying little obligations after a misstep. Nowadays, I’m finding that they have meaning.
Mike has forgiven me, because he’s a good man, but I find myself wanting to tell him a few more times that I’m sorry. Because “I’m sorry” isn’t about the forgiveness. It’s about empathizing with the other person and it’s about hoping he doesn’t wonder if I’ve forgotten again how hard he works to keep the Basil growing and producing.
I haven’t forgotten yet. I’m an idiot, so I will, but until then, I’m so very sorry.