There is an old story of a rabbi who was walking down the street when a woman jumped on him and started to scream and punch him. After a while she noticed that the rabbi was not who she thought he was. She had thought he was her husband, who had left her destitute some years earlier. On seeing her mistake she was overcome with shame and burst into tears.
The rabbi got to his feet, dusted himself off and went to comfort her. He said: “Please don’t cry, you did not beat me, but the man who has hurt you.”
In many ways we are like her. We get angry with people, but when we are honest about it, we are really only angry who we thought they were. We make expectations of people that may be unrealistic – what we hope them to be, what we wish them to be, and sometimes what no human can be.
It is this attempt to put our trusts, hopes, and desires into people that will always let us down. Each of us has been born with a God-shaped vacuum in our souls. So many of us try to fill it with things, or with people. The result will always be the same – disappointment. Disappointment can became anger. Anger can turn the hatred. Hated can end up, as with our rabbi’s assailant, with embarrassment, self-loathing and tears.
Let us overcome this propensity to mistake identity, by truly seeking the only One who can meet our needs (John 1: 9-13; John 14:6).