Incident with a neigbour

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. —Romans 7:15

My Christian walk has been feeling more real over the past seven months. I see areas in my life that need improvement. Behaviour that I wouldn’t have thought twice about feels wrong. I’m less inclined to judge others or tell them what to do. I’m slowly learning to keep quiet unless doing so would harm someone (this is hard, especially at work!). 

Life would be easier if becoming a Christian included surgical removal of my “mean thoughts” and “unkindness” parts! Sometimes I’m so fixated on what’s “fair” that I forget to be kind, generous or gracious. Instead I’m petty: if a colleague leaves a dirty cup in the sink and forgets about it, I won’t wash it because in my mind they put it there so they should wash it, but if I’m already washing a couple of things how much extra time does it take to wash one cup? Now I’ll wash other people’s things in the sink…sometimes! See why that verse from Romans 7 spoke to me?

God tests us; for example, if you’ve been praying for patience, you’ll be given more situations where you have to exercise patience, rather than just waking up one day and being more patient than you used to be. My weak areas are definitely being tested and I pass maybe half of the time—and this is the point of this post. 

My next door neighbour of less than a year often leaves his copy of the flyers that are delivered to our homes in the space between his house and mine. It drives me nuts because it makes the space look untidy. I always think “How hard is it to put the flyers in your recycling bin? Or put a note on your mailbox saying that you don’t want flyers delivered to your home?” I let the situation bother and annoy me when I could just pick up the flyers and recycle them (because really it only takes a minute to do so). The best thing to do would be to maintain peace. Most of the time that’s what I do, but this past weekend I saw a flyer that had been there for over a week, and I snapped! I brought the flyer into my house and put it in my recycling bin, then found a piece of poster board, wrote a message on it asking that flyers not be left there, and put it in the space between our houses.

Shortly after this, I heard my neighbour either going out or coming in and I felt bad about the note.  I started to think about the situation from a different perspective (not like me!): the first and only time I’d ever seen my neighbour, I’d asked if a wedding or party invitation that had been delivered to me belonged to him. He said it wasn’t his, but he had mentioned at the time that he was getting married. I had also heard from another neighbour that he and his girlfriend have a young child and a dog. Maybe wedding planning and raising a young child meant that their hands were always full when they got home, and they just needed to get into the house, causing the flyer to be kicked aside. Maybe it was even the wind moving those flyers into the space between us. Or maybe he simply didn’t think his actions were a big deal, and figured that our condo fees cover this sort of thing. 

It was ok for me to be frustrated, but stooping to passive-aggressiveness wasn’t cool so I went to collect my sign. When I opened my door the sign was lying on my welcome mat, further confirmation that the note was a terrible idea.

I brought the note in, tossed it in my recycling bin, and felt even worse. Since it was after midnight, I decided to repent to God rather than knock on his door (I was being practical too: if he didn’t accept my apology and was angry, I didn’t want him to do something that could send me to the hospital; I’ve only met him once after all!). I decided that I would apologize in person the next time I saw him, but I left a note with an apology in his mailbox. I was worried that I’d find the note on my welcome mat the next day but thankfully I didn’t. 

In this society we’re encouraged to look out for our best interests and put ourselves first, but this is the opposite of what Jesus did. Living the “me first” way isn’t adding to my life so I’ll try Jesus’ way, focusing on loving others and having the mindset of serving others. Being a Christian doesn’t stop you from thinking bad thoughts or taking wrong actions, but you can repent and do better next time. 

How do you deal with situations where your actions don’t match your beliefs?

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14 thoughts on “Incident with a neigbour

  1. Love this post Jummy. First off I thank God that you still have an active conscience. The fact that you are internally convicted when you think, say or do something “negative” and feel bad about it is a good thing.

    We can take a lot of pressure off ourselves when we realize we won’t always say, think and do the right things but having a repentant heart, choosing to shut down those negative thoughts the next time they come, choosing to say or in some cases not say or entertain certain conversations, and choosing to think, what would Jesus do in this situation and perhaps pushing ourselves to do what feels uncomfortable but the right thing to do nonetheless are all steps in the right direction.

    We will fail sometimes, however we can purposefully work on”passing” more often. This post I wrote recently summarizes my thoughts about living the Christian life, here is the link: http://triumphantorder.blogspot.com/2015/03/recruiting.html

    • Well said, Highly Favored. I’m learning to be ok with my imperfect state, as long as I’m “passing” more as you put it.

      Thanks for sharing the link to that post of yours—I commented on it and appreciate your response: as Christians it’s easy to forget that we’re supposed to be representing Christ and not our ourselves—certainly a daily (hourly?) challenge for me!

  2. It’s interesting how your perspective changed after you had some time to sit and go over the events. Sometimes its not our fault that a re-occurring issue finally gets to us, but also its good to look at it from the another angle -from the other side of the fence like you have done.
    Patience is not easy, but it’s often the only thing that keeps us focused in trying times. Communication is everything.
    Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks for your comment, blogoratti! I learned from the incident and hope that in future situations I will think things through (including looking at the other side) before I act!

  3. Will you believe me Jummy if I say that, I have a similar draft of a post I titled ‘Pettiness’, hmm, we are in the spirit right? Ahahhaa.

    I will see this from a different perspective and not your religious angle, because I like handling issues realistically as it comes. I can relate to your story because I have been there. I simply apply my shrewdness to it. Having lived in Nigeria for many years, one will learn to handle somethings with an iron hand inside a velvet gloves. No medimedi about it.

    Like the unwashed cup issue; I can be as mean as that and ignored that cup if the person does it often. If it is just once or twice, I will wash it. But 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th ….. i go pretend not to see am sef! If it comes to worst, I will leave my dirty dishes in my lunch bag and wash it when I get home just to avoid seeing those unwashed dishes in the sink, and be tempted to wash it! I was brought up to clean after myself immediately, and it’s the same rule I have passed unto my family. Remember my post on dish washing?
    http://www.thenitty-gritty.com/2014/10/dish-washing.html

    Femme lounge even published it;

    http://woman.ng/2014/11/dish-washing-do-you-wash-as-you-use-or-pile-up-till-later/

    This is to tell you that it is not petty! It is all about power play! Some people feel they are entitled to some things simply because …. I dunno! Some take other people kindness for granted! Some take advantage of ‘you are a christian, so be always good! OH! PUHLEASE! EXCUSEEE ME! Being a Christian does not mean I should be ridden over! Simply because the scriptures says we should turn the other cheek when slapped, it does not mean you should slap me! It is the same scripture that says we should apply wisdom in all things, that we should be wise as a serpent but humble as a dove! Do you know the behaviourial characteristics of a serpent? I always watch documentaries on it.

    I believe in practical Christianity. Christainity means Christ-like. Did CHRIST take any nonsense from his disciples and followers? Did HE not bring radical change? The race is not for the strong or swift but to whom GOD gives HIS grace to. So running the Christian race is by HIS grace, because some people’s action will make you say and do somethings they won’t believe! At the end of the day, they will say’ But you are a Christian nau? Like seriously? So I should allow you to poo on me? I simply know where and when to turn the other cheek Jummy.

    Living abroad has taught me to respect boundaries and personal space. No encroaching, since it is more of an individualistic society. And I don’t like confrontation … yes I don’t o, compared to popular believe, this much i said in the awards posts , rather, I will subtlety apply actions. I don’t know how wide your passage is between both of you, I will simply be kicking it to the front of his door whenever I pass, then buy artificial potted plants to kind of demarcate my side of the passage! Don’t feel bad Jummy, you simply did the polite thing, IMO, it was up to him to make corrections, but his action says otherwise and you apologizing, shows maturity. You can put a fancy wicker waste bin basket in the passage and place a note for the guys bringing the fliers; PLEASE ALL FLIERS SHOULD BE PUT IN HERE. #team keep the environment clean#.

    An interesting post again, Jummy.
    Happy new month to you :D

    • Thanks for your comment, Nitty. I always enjoy your perspective.

      So you don’t get the wrong impression of me, I need to say that for every incident where I behave as I shared in this post, there are at least 10 situations where I am petty and bitter and don’t show grace or kindness. I think we know when God is telling us to do something but sometimes we choose not to for reasons of pettiness (we think it’s “not fair” or that someone is “getting away with bad behaviour”). I take those reactions as a sign that I’m not trusting God to make things right in His time. Lately I just feel like it’s not my job to be judge like I love to do: judgment is the Lord’s and I’m trying to listen to God and do as I feel led to do. In this situation I felt like I was being told that the way that I handled it wasn’t correct: a face-to-face conversation would have been so much better, even though it would have been more difficult for me as I get nervous in such situations.

      If, instead of apologizing, I had put the note back where it was or tried another tactic to point out their messiness, I think things could have escalated and I would have been miserable, far more miserable than if a mountain of their flyers were covering my doorway. Nowadays, no flyers build up in the space between us and I’m at peace.

      I can see situations where your suggested solution would work very well, it’s just having the discernment to know the best way to react in a situation, and I think that was part of your point.

  4. I think it depends on the situation. I take personal issue at ignorant people, especially ignorant people who are that way in the name of “religion.” And yes, if people are going to make comments that I don’t believe in, I will either ignore them or find the time to TEACH them about tolerance, depending on the situation. This includes family members who somehow have “old fashioned” values (i.e. anti-gay marriage) even though they’re under 50.

    • I hear you, Cynthia, but at the same time we have to respect that people will have different opinions from us and nobody is ever 100% right all of the time.

      I want to live in a world that is compassionate, where we can show kindness to people whose viewpoints differ from ours without either selling out on our views by blindly agreeing with them, or dismissing them as humans worthy of our time, simply because they don’t agree with us.

  5. Honestly, you are too sentitve and haters will always use your weak point against you. I doubt if you can live where I live and remain there till now. I have been through hell because some neighbours believe that I should be as they want me to be and constantly infringed my Human Rights with the aid of authority figures.

    If you have a landlord or estate agent complain to them. There was no need to write your neighbour a note which could later be used against. You don’t need to feel guilty for the litter either. Simply throw the flyers away. Simple! Seek advice from family members before taking action next time. Some neighbours are nothing but troublemakers. Have you ever had neighbours who complain that you eat too much via too much shopping, don’t talk to them and should feed them after maltreating you? Thank your god!

    • Cosign!!! Jummy you come across as being too nice watch out or people will take advantage of you if they are not doing so already.

      • Too nice? I wish! For every situation like this one there are probably 10 where I’m petty or rude and I don’t have a problem with my actions. It’s just in this case I felt like God was telling me that I didn’t do the right thing and I’m glad I didn’t ignore it.

    • Hi Kaygee! You’re absolutely right: I’m a sensitive generally speaking, but in this instance it was about doing what was right: there are times that I’ve been very direct and not felt remorse or uneasy following my action; this was not one of those times, and I believe it was God pricking my conscience and telling me to be compassionate.

      Your situation sounds challenging—sorry to hear about it.

  6. Well done GNG!!

    I am very practical, impatient and do not treat fool gladly. But I have been trying to be patient and gracious, and the question that I use as a guide is this:

    after what my response to/encounter with A, regardless of whether I am right or wrong, will A listen to me if I preach the gospel to A seconds later?

    I bet that your neighbour after seeing your apology will be more willing to listen to you preach.

    • OOOOH! That is such a great litmus test, Ese. If we took the time to run our actions through that test, we Christians sure would make different decisions.

      Thank you for commenting!

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