Oct 142020 1 Response

Gentleness Is the Better Way

We live in a world of outrage. It’s such a part of our culture that we often don’t even recognize its presence. Expressing outrage just seems like the right response. A car cuts you off, yell at them. Someone promotes an idea you don’t like on social media, blast a response back at them (then block them, then talk to your friends about them). Experience a tense interaction with another person, don’t assume they are having a bad day or it’s just a misunderstanding. Instead, go full-throttle on them, their business, and their reputation.

Outrage is the way of our day. It’s true in business, politics, and abundantly clear on social media. Sadly, it’s also a common expression inside many homes and marriages.

But Jesus invites us to a different way.

Rather than living in a constant state of outrage, Jesus taught, modeled, and invites us to a way of gentleness. The contrast couldn’t be more striking. Society expects us to respond to every hurt with outrage, showing strength and power in order to protect ourselves from further hurts. But Jesus calls us to the way of gentleness, restraining our power and being driven by love in all that we do. (See: How I Predict Divorce Based on the Wedding Cake)

Why is His way better?

The Dangers of Anger

Anger presents a series of dangers which we often overlook. While we feel justified and empowered by our anger, when we allow it to drive our actions and attitudes, we can experience negative consequences.

The primary danger of anger is that it blinds us. It inhibits our ability to see people. When we are outraged, we don’t see individual beliefs or behaviors that we disagree with. Instead, we define the whole person as wrong or evil. We lose sight of the complexity of their humanity and diminish them to one failure, fault, or idea. As we stop seeing people, we are emboldened to treat them however we wish. What allows someone to treat another so poorly on social media when they would never do so in person? They don’t see the other person.

As we are blinded by anger, we fail to see or understand the pains of others. Fearing that we will be treated with contempt, mockery, or shame, we no longer reveal our true hearts. We hide our pain, addictions, and struggles. Others do the same. In a society filled with outrage, everyone is presenting a persona of strength that does not match the reality of who they are. My pretend self interacts with your pretend self.

The byproduct of this process is that we get stuck. Outrage destroys our problem-solving skills. Rather than having meaningful conversations in which we progress forward, we simply yell and scream at one another or completely shut down and emotionally escape. Either way, we don’t present our full selves in an attempt to understand and be understood. The result is we get stuck in our anger.

Doesn’t this define the problem with politics? Everyone is angry but no progress is being made on our problems. Anger simply gives birth to more anger. Sadly this defines more than just the political spectrum. In many areas of life, we are stuck and unbeknownst to us, the source of the problem is unresolved anger.

The Opportunity of Gentleness

While everyone is prone to anger, we are not forced to be ruled by it. We can control our anger and choose a way other than outrage. The way is gentleness. We can restrain our emotions, choose the way of love, and fully engage another person while never using our power for their detriment. Instead, we can kindly, compassionately, and graciously seek the best for whomever is before us.

Gentleness empowers a powerful process.

It allows people to be seen. When we choose gentleness, we see others. While anger blinds us, gentleness gives us sight. We see people for more than just a behavior or belief. We refuse to belittle others or to define them by a single label. While seeing others may not make us agree with them, it does cause us to feel compassion. And being seen causes others to feel value. When we are overlooked we feel worthless, but when we are seen we feel valuable. (See: You Won’t Talk to Me That Way)

Seeing others encourages a revelation of pain. Gentleness enables us to let down our guard and reveal who we actually are. When anger is present, we protect our hearts by denying our struggles, downplaying our failures, and hiding our addictions. Yet when we are truly seen and valued, we can then let our guard down. This helps us show others who we actually are. It enables us to engage our whole person in the lives of others.

As people are seen and pain is revealed, problems are solved. Gentleness empowers problem solving. While anger gives birth to anger, gentleness produces progress. When anger is present, two people attack each other during a conversation rather than actually communicating with each other. They don’t see the other side, don’t understand the other’s pain, and cannot find a middle ground in order to move forward. Yet when gentleness is present, people are seen, pain is revealed, and the climate is set so that progress can be made. It doesn’t guarantee we will believe alike or make the same choices or be in total agreement, but it does mean we can understand one another, appreciate differences, and find a way forward.

Three Questions

Here’s a simple diagnostic test to evaluate the presence of gentleness in your life, marriage, family, and other areas. Consider:

Do you see others? Do you refuse to label or minimize others? Do you recognize the complexity of other people? In your family, is each individual seen, valued, and appreciated?

Do you enable others to reveal their pain? Do you refuse to dismiss the pains of others or shame them? Can your children reveal their fears to you? Do you engage with your whole heart even when it feels risky?

Do you solve problems? Can you have productive conversations with others? Do you rarely feel stuck in life or relationships? Can you identity problems, face them, and then move past them?

Gentleness is a radically different way than the outrage often expected in our society. But imagine a home defined by gentleness. Consider the opportunity for a leader who chooses the way of gentleness. Fathom the possibility of what life can be like if we would refuse outrage and choose gentleness.

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