Garbage In, Garbage Out
Proverbs 15:18 “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife,
But the slow to anger calms a dispute.”
In computer science the term “garbage in and garbage out” is used to describe the concept of flawed, or nonsense input data that produces nonsense output or “garbage”. Basically, it imitates the idea of when you put garbage into a garbage truck, all you are going to get back is “garbage”. A garbage truck is filled with waste, discarded material, debris or rotting food. We are often disgusted by the sight and smell of a garbage truck when it passes. It is a vessel that carries things that we no long want.
Many people are walking garbage trucks. Maybe this is an unpleasant thing to say; but sadly, it is the truth. Everyone would have dealt with some form of hurt or pain along this journey called life and many people do not know how to deal with the hurt. They would rather bury the shame and those negative feelings. However, burying those feelings doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. No matter how much we try to change and polish the outside appearance, the inside appearance is unpleasant. Often there are times when that unpleasant look, comes out. It can be seen in the attitudes and behaviours shown towards others.
There was once a manager for a department who was very hot tempered. She always had very nasty and demoralising words to say towards her staff members. Of course, her staff would naturally resent her because of this behaviour. However, the staff did not know about the personal hell she was going through at home. She had a very abusive husband and children who had absolutely no respect for her. It was difficult for her to deal with this hurt and rejection; she was hostile to whoever she met outside of her household.
During a staff meeting she started shouting at the top of her voice. As her staff watched her in total bewilderment, one of her staff members stood up and quietly asked her “Why are you shouting?”. The staff member continued, “We do everything you ask and support all your initiatives, yet you berate us. Why?”
The piercing silence that followed was heavy like an armour upon one’s chest. The manager said nothing. What came after was a muffled “I am sorry” from the manager’s mouth. The sound was muffled by her encroaching tears. When she realised that she could not control her watery emotions any longer, she quickly adjourned the meeting and requested the young lady who stood up to follow her to the office. I was that young lady.
I picked up my pen and diary and slowly walked behind her, thinking to myself “Me and my big mouth”. When we were in her office, she told me to close the door behind me. As she proceeded to sit in her chair, I sat on one of the two guest chairs that faced her. Her glassy eyes stared at me with no emotion. I proceed to hear my inner voice say, “she is going to cuss you out and tell you to pack up your desk”. This was not the case. Her glassy eyes broke and she started to cry. They were uncontrollable tears, like if someone had died. But I guess, something had died – her spirit.
Through her tears she proceeds to relate to me about the verbal and physical abuse she was enduring at home from her husband and children. She felt alone, and she knew her behaviour and relationship with others were negatively affected. The hate and abuse that was shown towards her in her own home was the same hate and abuse she exhibited towards other people. In the end of a two hour session, all I could of done at the time was get up, walk around the desk and give her a hug, and said “Whatever you decide to do, I will support you”. When I finished hugged her, she watched me and said, “Thank you – I haven’t been hugged like that for years”.
At that time, I pitied her. I did not fully understand when she said the words “Thank you”. As I matured along my spiritual journey and pondered upon that experience, I realised that “Thank you” was a result of the kindness that I showed her at that time.
Her anger towards others was a result of the physical and mental abuse she was experiencing in her home, hence the phrase, Garbage In, Garbage Out!
Many times, we see people and wonder why they may be behaving in a certain way. Some people are often vessels for hatred shown to them. Often, we may be quick to condemn rather than try to understand the reason behind the behaviour. No matter how much you try to dress up the outward self, the inward self is still tattered and torn. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Colossians 3:12). If hurt people reach out to us for understanding, we are not to turn them away.
We are to listen and provide comfort, which is sometimes the only comfort they would ever know. It may take more than a 2-hour conservation, but that conservation can lead to healing and recovery. We cannot continue to contribute to the “garbage”. Let us be part of the light that lights that candle of hope in someone’s else’s life.