Friday, January 23, 2015

“I choose gentleness... Nothing is won by force. I choose to be gentle. If I raise my voice may it be only in praise. If I clench my fist, may it be only in prayer. If I make a demand, may it be only of myself.” ― Max Lucado

“I might be wrong.”  “You may be right.”  The previous two phrases, brief as they are, can be the most important things you can ever learn to say.  It takes people very secure in knowing who they are and that they are important to God and to others to say those phrases.  Those with very low self-esteem may find it impossible to utter either phrase, but there would be fewer wars, fewer divorces, more legislation passed, more marriages, and subsequently more children if we could just learn to say them—and mean them.  Far too often, we assume that if we are wrong about something, it means that we have no value in and of ourselves.  Everyone knows at least one person who has to be right all the time, and you also know that there is no one who is right all the time.  You can make a big deal out of proving them wrong, but there is no virtue in winning like that because it hurts the other person.  I am old and overweight, but if someone is drunk enough, I could probably beat them up, but what have I proved?  That I could beat up a drunk?  Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If” is a good case in point.  Part of the first stanza is as follows: 

 If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when everyones doubts you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;   
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating . . .

You get the idea, and it’s not original with Kipling.  Turn the other cheek, walk the second mile, love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you are all things that the Son of God tells us to do in Matthew.  It is hard to do, there is no question, because all of those things go against our primal instinct to return evil for evil, hate for hate, violence for violence, yet Christ calls us to higher standards than those beast-like feelings that lie so near the surface of our too thin skin.  I am as guilty of this as anyone.  I yelled at my wife just a few days ago and then realized what an example I was setting.  I was ashamed and angry at myself and I vowed that day never to again raise my voice, and, so far, I have been successful.  I may not be perfect at it, but as long as that is my goal, I will give soft answers far more often than harsh ones.  We don’t need to win arguments to have value and worth, we need to be obedient and available to God to have that value and that worth.  We need to be “doers” of the Word and not just “hearers” only.  The way to make that huge change in your personality will come from starting to use the two phrases that began this blog.  Just do it for three days.  If you’re not convinced by then, you probably need more professional help than I can give.  We have been commanded to love, not to hate.  I have been wronged many, many times, but I cannot hate, I can only forgive, love, and pray that the hearts of those who wronged me are made clean by Christ’s love.  The Bible also says, “A soft answer turneth away wrath” and that is true and you can take that to the bank.  It has become my mantra.  I pray that I live long enough that no one remembers the times I raised my voice in anger, and, at my current age, that may require me to live longer than I can.  I will try my level best to be kinder, gentler, and quicker to listen and much slower to anger.  You try, too.
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