The Perfect Comeback

I almost did it.
Have you, like me, ever yearned for a perfect comeback to someone discourteous, but couldn’t think of a thing until hours later, and only then after mulling over all possible options for hours?
Today, I almost had my moment.
Of course, it’s a dicey situation, isn’t it? What if that person walks into my office tomorrow or my church on Sunday, not to mention the fact that I represent Jesus who is always with me. But today, as I muttered to my steering wheel, it came to me. The perfect comeback. And I almost had the opportunity to express it.
Here’s how it all went down:
I met my husband and son at the Post Office needing to renew our three passports. The clerk, Ann, had just taken their mug shots photos and seemed a little annoyed that she had to stay in the chilly lobby to take yet another one. [OK, I get that.]
My husband’s joke, “Can I get a different background?” was met by stony silence. No smile, headshake, or even an acknowledgement that he had spoken, despite the chuckles of other patrons stamping their letters nearby.
After my quick headshot, we returned to her station to proceed with the paperwork. Tony reminded her to process my son’s application first because he needed to leave quickly. Her steely-eyed glare was almost as cold as her reply, “I heard you the first time.” Ouch, that was a little harsh, but giving her the benefit of the doubt, my husband can have a tendency to make sure things are done “right.” [Luv ya, hon ;D]
As she continued to process the many papers, photos, and payments, her attitude continued to deteriorate from abrupt to curt to downright churlish.
Tony and I walked away mumbling to each other about her. My photo horrified me. For the next 10 years, I will be identified by a ghastly auburn slash of bang bisecting my forehead. Come on, I’m a girl, you’re a girl, can’t you clue me in before you snap?
But later I had to return to mail the applications with a “traceable delivery method” and I would have my chance. At least I thought I would. Here’s how I had it worked out in my head:
“Hi, again. Are you having a bad day today? Because I’d like to pray for you.” [genuine sweet smile]

"But if you’re just ordinarily surly, I’ll pray differently for you. [wink, not so genuine huge sweet smile] Thank you so much. Have a great day.”
When I returned to the scene of the crime, alas, at clerk Ann’s counter stood Charles; Ann nowhere to be seen, perhaps gone for the day. The momentary disappointment that I wouldn’t get my chance for the perfect comeback was partnered with a flood of relief that I couldn’t share that perfect comeback.

In the movie, You’ve Got Mail, Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) longs to hurl a perfect comeback to her adversary, Joe Fox (Tom Hanks). Only when she finally does, it came with the realization that her words left her feeling worse for having said them. “Do you ever feel like you've become the worst version of yourself? That a Pandora's Box of all the secret hateful parts -- your arrogance, your spite, your condescension -- has sprung open. Someone provokes you, and instead of just smiling and moving on, you zing them. I didn't get any satisfaction from it," she types, "I just felt mean. When you say the thing you mean to say at the moment you mean to say it, remorse inevitably follows.” I knew I’d feel the same way.

So, what is the perfect comeback? It is to come back to the Lord and allow Him take care of any consequences my “adversary” deserves. I spent half my day invisibly tethered to a mean-spirited postal worker. What a waste of time and energy.

Instead, I decided to honestly pray for her. You never know why God puts certain people in your path, and it may be that I’m the only one praying for her. For the next 10 years, my bifurcated forehead photo will serve as a reminder, not just to pray for Ann and others like her, but to keep turning the other cheek, going the second mile, and loving the unlovely, for as Jesus said, “If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? …In a word, what I'm saying is, Grow up. You're kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you." Mt. 5:46-48 MSG



Mari said...

Great reminder! Those kind of situations always leave me frustrated. I don't say anything, but am left thinking I should have. I like your approach!

Audrey said...

welcome back!!!!!

Jeanette Levellie said...

I am so proud of you, honey, for praying for Ann. I have learned how freeing this is when someone wrongs or hurts me. I don't always remember to do it, but when I do, it works beautifully.

I think I would have asked to speak to the manager about Ann, too. If she's treating you like that, chances are she's surly to other customers, and most managers would want to know about it. Just a thought--you can do what you like with it.


Susan said...


I thoroughly enjoyed today’s Eternity Café!! More than enjoyment, it spoke VOLUMES. I can never think of any witty or
fruitful answer or saying to curt /rude people. What I do is clam up and think about (and speak out loud) the things I SHOULD have said
(things, of course, which would never honor the Lord) and then crescendo with a sleepless night.

Thanks for sharing. Please let me know how Irving and Joan are doing.

Susan M

Cookie said...

Great Comeback! Welcome Back! We missed you! Love you!

Betsy said...

Hi Sue...

I am so so happy you ARE BACK.......

You and Roy Lessin are my favorite blog/messages that I race to open in my e-mail.

What a great message about praying for those that can throw you "off balance" I call it in our wonderful day . Sometimes people are put in our path, as Christians, to stop us, wake us up, test our walk with the Lord, remind us that we need to reach out , have patience and pray for those that annoy us as this clerk did. I am so happy you reminded me how to strengthen my walk in my journey .


Maria said...

Hi Susan,
I really liked the post and if you really want to meet disgruntled ,nastier employees then I can nominate the Pasaic Unemployment office. A discussion for a later time and place.
Don't get me started.
Enjoy the weekend.

Cathy said...

I love it!!

Barb said...

Hi Susan, I just have to tell you this is so perfect! A friend of mine at work and I have been complaining about one of our co-workers because she is sooooo rude how she talks to us! So now I know what to do! Pray for her! Thank you so much for hitting me in the head with this one! You’re the best! Have a great day, Barb

Donna Bolster said...

I'm so glad you're back. I have missed you. And this is a great message!

remiv said...

What a beautiful post.
Now I don't feel so bad about all the times I didn't have that perfect come back. Perhaps it is just best not to go there. Your method is much more generous.
Thank you.

Donna A said...

Beautiful and so "now". Hope all is well. Say hi to everyone from the Bible Study. I think of you often.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Susan -

Mom always said, "Two wrongs don't make a right." I love that phrase, "Live generously and graciously toward others..." Oh, that this tongue may be tamed!

Susan :)