I will permit no man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him. -Booker T. Washington
I often share thoughts on sermons from Sunday and we are currently in a series that I'm enjoying and find that the message stays with me during the week.
This past Sunday, the topic was meekness.
Happy are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5
I think it's easy to consider meekness to mean weak. We're taught from an early age that meek is weak and that weak is bad.
My pastor defined meekness as strength under control. Dictionary.com uses definitions like "humbly patient" and "gentle" and "kind."
Humble and patient and gentle and kind. I like those words. I like meekness.
Some of the notes from the sermon were 5 ways to work on how you react to things.
1. When someone serves me, be understanding not demanding.
2. When someone disappoints me, be gentle and not judgemental.
3. When someone disagrees with me, be tender without surrender.
4. When someone corrects me, be teachable, not unreachable.
5. When somebody hurts me, be an actor, not a reactor.
Point number 3 has come up quite a bit for me since Sunday.
I participate in some local message boards and discussion groups. Anyone who has ever been part of one of these online communities knows that the discussions can sometimes get heated. There are friendships formed... but there also seems to be an easy path to selecting someone to be your enemy or to set yourself as someone's enemy.
When someone disagrees with me...
It can be really easy in those online situations to take a disagreement, a differing opinion, as someone attacking you. And there are certainly people who do purposefully pursue people, antagonize someone, represent themselves in authentically. And there are certainly people who are as true to themselves as they can be online.
...be tender without surrender.
How often do we fire off a comment or reply to a thread without thinking about the consequence of what we are saying? How often do we respond from our hurt emotion, attack or run away?
I have 3 choices when confronted with a difficult person: I can retreat in fear, I can attack in anger, or I can respond in love.
That's a tough one, isn't it?
Outside of the online communities, how often do we really live that one? When my kids act up, whine, complain, don't listen, fight... they are being difficult people... how often do I end up attacking in anger? What can I do to focus on responding with love?
Believe it or not, there are times that Jeff and I may not agree on something. Shocking, I know. Or we might just be having a conversation about the events of the day or the weekend ahead. It can be so easy to slip into assumptions of what I think he's inferring. I tend to be more of the "attack" type and he's more of the "retreat" type. I can't speak for Jeff, but I have been working a lot over the past year to really focus on responding in love. Love doesn't mean you always agree or that life is sunshine and roses. Responding in love, to me, just means you are taking the feelings and experiences of the other person into your heart before you respond. You are considering the impact you may have with the words and actions you choose.
Can you imagine how much stronger all of our relationships could be if we did that consistently? And to get down and dirty and honest- I think I do that better with my husband and my friends than I do with my kids. I know others who do that really well with their kids but they let other important relationships- like marriage or a best friend or a parent- slide. But if I really focus on the impact of my words and actions on my kids... I'm a better parent. If I think about them first, ahead of my selfish wants, my life ends up being more fulfilling anyway. I've seen it happen in my marriage- when I realized that my husband felt like he wasn't a priority and I had to do some work to change that and I ended up feeling stronger and more secure in my marriage because of it.
Along the lines of meekness, "serve" is a word that has gotten a bad rap in relationships. We've become people who seek to be served rather than serving others. Personally, my greatest joy and satisfaction comes from serving others. For me, it's too easy, sometimes, to serve people outside of my family and something I work on is striving to serve my husband, to serve my children. I don't do it in order to get something back. I don't do it so that I can point to what I've done and demand repayment. I do it because I love my husband, I love my kids, and they deserve to be loved and cared for.
I'm proud to be meek and I'm proud to serve.
How about you?