Hating My Neighbor

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The other day I went out to my garage shop to work on a seat/stool that I have been needing to make.  (I actually found the design via “A Beautiful Mess” if you are interested)

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Everything was normal until a truck pulled up in front of our driveway.  The older gentleman stepped out and we met halfway up the driveway.  “Can I help you, sir?” I said, feeling the inside strength of protecting my home and wanting to satisfy my curiosity.   We live on a relatively quiet street with only one neighbor that isn’t through the trees so I was surprised by this random visit.

As it turns out my visitor was our Home Owners Association president.  And there had been a complaint about the noise that I apparently make in my garage and around my house. To provide a little context: I do woodworking as a hobby and enjoy working in and around my yard like mowing the grass and blowing leaves.  While I am not in the back yard hunting big game with a .270, I am also not mister video games in the house all day either…  I think I would classify myself as an average husband/dad/homeowner noise maker.

He didn’t say much, and as I simultaneously talked with him while racking my brain with many  questions. “Who reported a complaint?!” “What noise do I make that isn’t worse than general home maintenance like a mower?!” “Who reported a complaint?!” 😉  “What have I been doing lately that might have been making noise?”

All of these questions filled my head at lighting speed.  All while I kept a conversation going with my “new friend”.

It didn’t really amount to much.  He really didn’t have much to say, in all honesty.  I think he was just doing his diligence.  He insisted that I attend the HMA meeting next time they meet where this topic might come up.  “Oh I am GOING, baby” I thought in my head.

After saying goodbye, and still surprised by the whole thing, I came in the house and debriefed with my wife.

As we talked over everything, we concluded the following:

  1. I hadn’t really been making THAT much noise.  Very few of my power tools make more noise than a leaf blower.
  2. I hadn’t really been doing many projects over the last 2 months and thought it super strange that he had showed up right as I was working…
  3. The only possible neighbors that could have a problem live across the street.

And then the bitterness came.  For both of us.  “Why hadn’t they talked to us?!” We glared back at one another in agreement… It had to be them.  We never talk to them much, and they dont’ really act like they want to know us, so it was an OBVIOUS conclusion. Err, assumption.

My wife and I were totally angry.  We love our house.  We love where we live.  But that night, we hated our neighbors.

The whole next day I was sick.  I kept thinking back to Jesus saying in the Bible something about if you can’t get along with your neighbor, then just peace out.  Ok not really.  He said “Love your neighbor.”

“But I don’t want to love them, Jesus”, I would say in my head.  Seriously.  This happened all the next day.  I wanted to be angry!  I wanted to find all the things they “do wrong” and tell them! It was beginning to get comical.  But I was seriously depressed for the entire day.  I knew we were going to have to live across from neighbors that we just didn’t get along with and I did not want that.  And the feeling of being spied on made it worse.

So later that day, after pacing my driveway 60 times, I finally marched over to their door to talk.  I had decided to take the clueless approach.  I did serious work with the Lord on what to think and say and I had to give them the benefit of the doubt.  (Even though I thought through all conversation scenarios and figured at some point I was gonna lose my cool.) I walked up and  I rang the doorbell…

And nothing.  Sigh.  I rang it again…

Nothing.  Another sigh.

And I walked home.     Depressed.

I couldn’t believe I had mustered up the courage to confront the situation and they weren’t home!!  Or maybe they were hiding out in the house laughing at me through another window.  Yea, that was it.  I knew it.

The next day came around and we took a little family walk outside.  After we headed back I thought I should just try again (even though I didn’t want to).

So I went up and rang the doorbell…

And they answered the door.  Yikes! I felt like an 8 year old who had just thrown the baseball into their yard by accident.  I was doomed.

I mustered up the courage and tact and explained about the conversation I had with our HMA President the other day and told them that I wanted to check with them since they were our closest neighbors if there was anything I could change about my activity or noise.

After my speech, they both looked at me and said that they had no problems at all.

NONE AT ALL!!

I couldn’t believe it.  I fully expected an onslaught of everything I was doing wrong and how I just needed to put the elephants somewhere else and stop jackhammering every night at 11pm.  It was so funny because inside it was like my heart was taking off this sick ugly heavy cloak of anger, spite, wrong assuming and ridiculousness and throwing it away.  It was awesome.

They did tell me that they have heard some complaints from other neighbors but that I should not be worried about it all.  So the mystery wasn’t solved, but I learned some VALUABLE lessons yesterday.

  1. Jesus was right when he said LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF and TREAT OTHERS AS YOU WOULD WANT TO BE TREATED.
  2. Assumptions are just what they are.  Assumptions.  They are not fact.  It is imperative to WAIT UNTIL YOU KNOW THE FACTS BEFORE YOU DRAW CONCLUSION, ESPECIALLY WHEN IT IS ABOUT POEPLE.  I am far too guilty of this!
  3. You have to CONFRONT SITUATIONS WITH PEOPLE WITH KINDNESS AND COURAGE. (follow @NateParks for great teaching of this)  Often, people are afraid of the word “confront”.  Confront literally means ‘to face up and deal with a problem or difficult situation’.  It doesn’t require anger or madness.
  4. PRAY.  Brooke and I prayed about this a few times, and I am convinced the Lord gave me the supernatural courage I needed to talk to them and the kindness to approach it.

As I walked back to our house, my heart was free from that black cloak I had put on it.  While I don’t still have all the details on my apparent noise situation in the neighborhood, I am glad that I no longer hate my neighbors.  🙂