Thursday, December 25, 2008

Showing Love by Gentleness

An injured dog will nearly always find a cave or hole and crawl in, staying until healed or hunger forces them out. Attempts to get them out are usually unsuccessful because he is not as well equipped to defend himself, and he doesn't want to be killed. He will fight desparately to prevent being dragged from his lair.

In nature, injured animals are the target of predators, because of their injuries. Other dogs often take advantage of weakness and attack or kill. The only defense is to withdraw to a place where the others cannot attack until strength is regained.

By making it obvious that one has no intention of causing further injury, and showing concern, one may gain the injured dog's confidence and coax him out so that one may minister to his wounds. It will not happen easily or quickly, however, and the person who caused the injury may find it almost impossible.

As the dog learns that one is only interested in helping, he becomes far more willing to allow you to see his hurt, and when fully convinced, will even allow you to do things that hurt because he trusts you to try to help.

Trying to force the dog out by prodding him with sticks, or grabbing and attempting to drag him out, on the other hand, merely reinforces his sense of vulnerability, increasing his determination to protect himself. He may well lash out at the one who is trying to help him.

Human beings exhibit similar behaviour, withdrawing from others when they are hurt. Emotional injuries result in an emotional withdrawing, and physical injuriesw result in physical avoidance. Trying to force them out tends to make them withdraw even more. Counselors and apparent friends who try to rush things increase anxiety, resulting in further withdrawal, and occasionally attacks on or injury even to those who are trying top help.

In my years as a pastor and husband, I have seen this happen many times. One of the most frequent areas is in the marriage. Most men appear to instinctively defend themselves physically. As a result, they tend to fight physically first. They also know how to respond to physical injury. In recent years, this instinctive behaviour has become increassingly frowned upon, leaving the male more and more defenceless.

Women on the other hand, are more likely to use verbal attacks initially, resorting to physical actions only if the verbal attack is unsuccessful. As a result, the woman is better equipped, in most cases, to deal with verbal injuries than the man is. Unfortunately, verbal attacks are held as acceptable, and in some cases even encouraged. After all the old saying is, "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me".

In a marriage, disagreements arise. Love always desires to put the other person above ones own interests. Most people have seen little or no example of love and the common idea of love is they give me what I want. Both sides want things their way. A fight results, and one is hurt.

Some men physically assault their wives, and some women physically attack their husbands. In these cases it is most often the wife who gets hurt, and begins to withdraw. The uninjured, the winner, becomes progressively more aggressive, as it gives him the advantage. Because physical abuse is taken very seriously, he will frequently apologise, and promise to not do it again, to overcome the withdrawal. If that is not successful, he may become more abusive to force the other out. He then adds insult to injury by blaming her for her injury. If she had just done as he told her, it wouldn't have happened. Now she is both physically and emotionally injured.

Some people attack their mate verbally. The horrible things that may be said are shocking. Unfortunately, society rarely views these verbal attacks as seriously as the physical attacks. The person making the attack thus may view themselves as not ahving done anything wrong. When their mate suddenly refuses to talk further, or walks out, they become quite angry and press the attack, accusing the other of not caring or lacking courage, or refusing to face the problem. They fail to understand or care that the withdrawal indicates that the other person is hurt.

It is easy to ignore the statement about the tongue in James 3:5-9. "Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents and of things in the sea is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison."

Hurts caused by the tongue are often more harmful than physical blows. A better version of the old saying would be "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words may kill my spirit." They are actually more dangerous than the blows of a physically abusive person. To let them go is more wicked than ignoring physical damage we have caused.

When the person we are in conflict with suddenly withdraws, it implies that we have inflicted serious injury. We need to stop inflicting more pain and begin to make it clear that the injury was unintentional. We also need to recognize that the conflict is an indication of an unspiritual condition according to I Corinthians 3:3 and repent of our sin. We have allowed Satan to control our tongue. We need to stop attacking and begin immediately to reduce the hurt persons stress.

Our human nature will encourage us to take advantage of the injury, but a spiritual nature will, as a result of the love the spirit produces, be more concerned with the others welfare than our victory. Frequently, we will not even understand how they were hurt by our comments.

If we are sincerely seeking what is best for them, we will be genuinely sorry for hurting them, and try to correct the hurt. Fake love will not admit doing wrong, trying to place the blame on the victim. The hurt indicates that we have gone too far. To continue to accuse or attack implies we do not really care. We need to heal the damage already done.

A charge that is frequently made against Christians is that we are the only army that shoots its wounded. All to often it is true, in direct contradiction to Gods command. Part of the fruit of the Spirit is gentleness, or a deliberate effort not to do harm. We are commanded to be filled with the Spirit. Our point can be made without hurting others if we are led by the Spirit.

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