There’s always that guy – that girl – who doesn’t get it. They completely blow off the feelings of others. Sometimes, their motives are right, but they don’t pay attention. Other times, they just don’t care. Either way, the result is the same: scars for the rest of us.
How can we help them be more gentle? How can we help them grow more sensitive to others? How can you and I help them care about the feelings of others?
I think the way to cultivate gentleness in others is to give them practice. Specifically, let them practice on you and I.
That sounds selfish at first – like, “Yeah, practice being gentle and caring to me” – but it’s not like that. It’s more like, “Yeah, I’m going to make myself vulnerable to you while you practice gentleness on me.” But oh wait – they don’t know they’re supposed to practice gentleness yet.
Suddenly this doesn’t sound so cushy.
Becoming the sacrificial experiment
I remember a particular Biology class I took (don’t we all have these stories?). In this one, we sacrificed innocent animals so we could study them. I’ll spare you the details. The idea is to experiment on a select few (or sometimes, many) in exchange for the information we gather.
Scientists do this all the time. We purposely give guinea pigs cancer to learn how to treat it – and hopefully save people’s lives.
That’s how I’m saying you and I need to get involved.
- Instead of letting Barbara try to practice gentleness for the first time on the little ol’, unsaved lady who just lost her husband of 57 years, let her practice on you.
- Instead of letting Tom try to practice gentleness for the first time on his wife who’s been cheating on him for the past five years with his “best friend,” let him practice on you.
What if you shared some of your deepest pains, and let Babara hack at helping you through it? What if you shared some of your darkest sins, and let Tom stumble through being gentle to you?
This stuff isn’t easy. You expose yourself in a serious way. You have to trust God to take care of you even if you’re treated harshly, which will happen. I think it is crucial, though, for cultivating gentleness in others.
They don’t know how to be gentle because they’ve never been trusted to deal with sin and pain authentically.
Within Christianity, we’re guarded. We know how to conceal our lives. No wonder those outside the church are scared to come to us. They don’t trust our gentleness. And how can they when we don’t within the church? If you’re not willing to trust someone’s gentleness, how will anyone else?
Yes, sharing yourself authentically will get you beat up, at least emotionally. Yes, your friends won’t know what to do. Yes, they’ll be harsh at first.
But isn’t it better that they practice on you – so next time, they’ll know what to do for someone else? It might not seem better, but overall who does God want you to care about, you or them?
We don’t share with the harshest people because we know we’ll get our heads bitten off. But failing to share only continues the cycle, cutting them off from opportunities to learn gentleness. Someone needs to be the guinea pig.
(1) What’s one secret you don’t usually share with others, perhaps because it’s too painful?
(2) Share it with someone. Go slowly. Start with someone who’s likely to offer least some gentleness, then work your way to the harshest of the pack.
(3) Pray. A lot. And get encouragement and support from other Christians around you. You’ll need a thick skin and spiritual protection as you share.