A couple of years ago, after having lived in our rural home for over 20 years, the neighbors decided to run cattle in the next canyon over, adjoining our property. The first I knew about it was when I went outside after being cooped up inside for several weeks with a knee injury. Much to my horror, I could see a fence that was obviously on my own property.
My own fence had been taken out, and the neighbors fence was put 12 feet inside our property.
I was upset, and called the neighbor (who have always been good friends and neighbors, and members of our congregation). The neighbor apologized, but said he had put the fence where he thought the property line was. He had not seen our property marker (hidden in a bush now 12 feet inside his fenceline. He told me we were welcome to change the fence to where we thought it should go- which was an impossible task for us to accomplish as we just didn’t have the resources or equipment to take out a half-mile of fence and reset it. He also explained state law which states that half of a fence line along a property line is the responsibility of each neighbor- meaning that we would be responsible for the cost of half the fence if he wanted to press the issue.
I was angry for a solid year. It colored my attitude towards my neighbors, and brought me to tears all over again every time I looked up my hill and saw cattle where I should see nothing but sky. It hurt. It was really difficult each Sunday when the neighbors were singing in my choir at Church…
The following summer, when I was again able to climb our hill (It is very steep and difficult, even without a knee injury), I climbed up and got spitting mad all over again when I realized exactly how much flat ground had been taken. My husband didn’t really care but to me it felt personal- this was my property, and they had purposely taken some of our tiny little 11 acres when they own hundreds of acres and didn’t need ours. After more months of resentment, I finally called them and admitted that I was still angry and wanted a meeting with their entire family (their property is owned by their family corporation) to hash out the fence. They readily agreed and we settled on a time to meet.
Now we come to the point of this story….
For the entire year, I had believed that they had purposely put their fence line 12 feet onto my property. I mean, really- how could they not have? They had to take down my fence to put up their own. I learned that day, however, after a chance remark from one of the brothers, that I had not had all the information and I had jumped to a conclusion that was not the truth. It turned out that a hired hand had taken down my fence, and then several days later, other people, including the brother, had come to put the new fence in. Not knowing where the original fence was, they just put it in where it seemed reasonable, along the ridge line.
In that instant, my anger and hurt melted away. These were good people that had honestly made a mistake. They were apologetic for not checking with me first, for putting the fence in the incorrect place, and for how badly I had been feeling. During that visit I had a complete change of feeling- I had peace for the first time in a year.
I learned a very valuable lesson in that experience. Like the blind men of Indostan, I judged that elephant of a fence based only on what I saw and felt. Like the Apostle Paul described, I saw my version of truth through a dark glass colored with resentment and lack of the full picture.
Learning the hard way, I have become a better, more reasonable and thoughtful person when it comes to searching for the truth. I am much more careful now to gather as much of the story as I need before making a judgement as to what the truth is in each situation. I learned not to judge the motives of others. I learned that there is truth- and it was up to me to know all the facts before I jumped to conclusions.