One of the most challenging things about living in community is, well, other persons. Not everyone has the same approach to fellowship as you do, and not everyone is willing to be honest about the ways that we sometimes get under each other's skin.
It can be tempting when you live in a world with someone who just doesn't like you to think that you're going to change things, that you're going to fix the situation. But the truth is that sometimes, you just can't. Sometimes, it doesn't matter what you do or how you change yourself or how honest, righteous, and upstanding you are - someone who just plain doesn't like you is unlikely to change his or her mind, no matter who you are or who you become for them. (And the danger, of course, is that you lose yourself for trying to be who they want you to be.)
Now, the truth is that often, those who are so antagonistic toward others are struggling in their own lives. There's something about themselves that they don't like, and they're projecting that on you. How many of us have realized, when we have come under unjust attack, that the things we are being falsely accused of are the very things the other party is guilty of and unwilling to confess?
That doesn't make them bad persons; it makes them human, just like us. And as much as it hurts to the core of our souls to be in disfellowship with anyone, particularly when the grounds of the disfellowship are untrue, we cannot let ourselves forget what our human nature does to us. To all of us. And we cannot let ourselves forget who we are.
You've probably heard it said that how you react to a situation will always say more about who you are than who someone else is.
And that's true. The challenge is when we want to use our reaction to show that we are who we are and who we have been all along and that we were not wrong to begin with. We think that the solution to our problems is to demonstrate somehow that we were never the person that we were accused of being.
But what's also true is that we don't get to change someone's impression of us in a moment that has already passed. It never works to say, "That's not what happened" because that is how someone else remembers it, and if that's how they remember it, that's how it happened. For them. You could find security footage and play it back and play an audio recording word for word and tone for tone, and it's still rare that anyone would say, "Gosh, wow, you are right. I was totally wrong about that."
(Most of us simply lack the humility to do so. Myself included, at times, but I'm working on it.)
This is the human drive for justification. We want the facts to show that we were not guilty of what we were accused of. We want the tapes to exonerate us. We want to declare, unswervingly, that we've been wrongfully accused and that it was never true to begin with.
We want that, but that never fixes the disfellowship. And some disfellowships can simply never be fixed, no matter how much you try; both parties have to be willing, and sometimes, they simply aren't.
What's better than justification, however, is sanctification. Sanctification chooses how to act moving forward. Sanctification realizes that you can never have that moment back, but you have a thousand moments moving forward in which to live out of the peace, righteousness, honesty, and integrity that you wish someone had seen yesterday. Sanctification accepts the possibility that maybe you did fail; it takes responsibility for a shared brokenness, however it happened. Then, sanctification chooses to live the kind of witness that doesn't seem to be helping you right now because it understands that what is said is true - how you react to a situation will always say more about who you are than who someone else is.
Truthfully, you may never be able to prove someone was wrong about you. Ironically, the more you try, the more you prove them right. Usually. But what you can do is choose who you really are. You can choose whose voice gets to call you out, and if you choose God's voice, then you live into the reality of who you are. Maybe the world will see that; maybe they won't. But at the end of the day, when you lay your head on your pillow and ask God how you did today, you can know that you did well. For you let Him determine who you are.
It might not change their hearts or minds, but it will change yours.
It may never justify you in the eyes of the world. You may live a consistent witness your whole life and still be marked by one moment when someone with a louder voice or a bigger audience than you mistook you for his or her own insecurities and threw you under the bus. You may live your whole life with tire marks across your face that you can never erase. You may simply never be justified.
But you can be sanctified, and I think that's better. Because at the end of the day, you answer to God. And if your answer can be, Lord, I took every opportunity to live forward into a new moment of faith, of righteousness, of integrity, of honesty, of love, then I think that's better in the end than having even one moment of ever getting to say, "I told you so."
How about, "I showed you so." I showed you that I am who I say that I am, even if I fail sometimes and have a fallen moment. I showed you that I value the things that I value, even if I forget sometimes in the heat of the moment. I showed you that I am always trying to live and love better, even if I got it wrong before. I showed you with every moment after the broken one that I can answer the call to something higher. I showed you so.