I got a really, really bad haircut recently. It was one of the worst haircut experiences I’ve had probably…ever. I’ve had horrible experiences at those Great Clips, Cheap Clips, Happy Clips, Crappy Clips kind of places. So I purposefully go out of my way to spend a little more money on a haircut.
When I walked into this place though, I was feeling good. It was super trendy, lots of old furniture and painted stuff everywhere. It had a real edgy vibe. Lots of tattoos and piercings and vegans. I was hopeful.
My barber was a nice girl. She did the normal barber things and made the normal barber small talk. She asked what the plan was for the hairs. “A lot shorter on the sides, and keep it long on top.”
She cut with scissors on the sides, and we both decided to move to clippers to get even shorter.
This is where things went downhill. “Oops,” and two hours later, I was walking out of that place with a very confused haircut. We had called in help from another barber, broke a pair of clippers, fixed a patch that appeared on the side of my head, dropped things repeatedly, and at one point she literally put her hand to her forehead and shook her head back and forth, I think forgetting that I could see her behind me in the mirror.
Poor girl. Pray for her.
I explained to a friend that the whole experience was kind of like your classic family movie. We laughed, we cried, there was conflict, and in the end the resolution wasn’t all that great nor what you’d expected, but we’re still on good terms. Overall I dealt with the situation like a gentleman. I didn’t have anywhere that I needed to be, and half way through I thought maybe I was doing the world a favor. I mean, she’s got to practice on somebody. Sitting there getting my head massacred meant that the next guy would get a little less Edward Scissorhands than I did. I was paying it forward.
I’ve been praying through Romans recently and this morning read this passage:
I thought immediately about how impatient I can be with other people’s failings. Outwardly I’m doing that type of fake smile you give to Girl Scouts when you’re walking in Walmart. But inwardly I’m so freaking frustrated and angry. I can get real fiery. It sucks.
“We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak, and not please ourselves; let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to edify him. For Christ did not please himself.”
This hit me hard. When I focus on the failings of others I’m really trying to please myself. I want something to go my way. Other people be damned. Instead, I’m missing a chance to recognize an opportunity to bear with a failing and edify my neighbor.
I’m a fan of Dual Wielding Scripture with the Catechism, so I opened up the catechism and found this:
I immediately remembered the haircut fiasco I had last week. Honestly, I wasn’t that upset about it. I really felt bad for this girl who was trying hard and just…well…things just didn’t work out that great. I remember telling her “Hey, you’re doing great. We’re gonna make it. We can do it.” (Which now looking back sounds hilarious. Ok, it was a little hilarious in the moment too.)
I realize now that what got me through two hours of a botched haircut without getting upset was the feeling that I was helping her grow. I was lending a helping head to give her a chance to learn and make mistakes and improve.
Jesus is “the perfect man”, so I’m sure he was not lacking in opportunities to be frustrated with us. But by humbling himself and focusing on others, he turned the weakness on its head.And by his poverty he turns the world on its head. A new way becomes apparent. Suddenly the trials and sufferings of the day are not isolated events. When we aren’t turned inward on ourselves, even our own sufferings and the hurts others place on us are not about us. They turn into opportunities to imitate Christ who, on the cross, turns the failings of the weak into the strength of the Saints.
Jesus gives us an example to imitate. I feel convicted to think of my hair the next time someone does something that makes me impatient or judgmental. I’ll think of my hair and remember that this is an opportunity to edify my neighbor, to build them up, to allow them to grow by giving them mercy and patience.
And maybe I’ll get a free haircut.
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Founder of Reverb Culture, a community for Catholic Young Adults, Edmund Mitchell writes and speaks as a lay Catholic evangelist and creative.
Edmund has 5+ years experience working in Church ministry and has 4 years experience as a husband and father. He lives with his wife, four kids, and chickens in Fort Worth, TX.