As I focused earlier this year on becoming more meek (“kind, generous, gentle”), I had plenty of opportunities to be more gentle, and I was struck by the following things:
1) I am naturally kind and generous, but I am not as naturally gentle in my verbal communication. I tended to be very straightforward, and I have a naturally sarcastic wit. Two out of three does not “wholeness” make. If I want to be more meek “than many people”, two out of three might suffice; if I want to be more meek **as I progress toward perfect meekness**, two out of three won't get me there. I need to work on the 1/3 I don't possess naturally.
2) It is much easier for me to be gentle outside my home and my interactions with my children than it is with my daily frustrations at home. Likewise, it is much easier to be gentle with strangers than it is to be gentle in situations where I am interacting with those I love and where I am invested emotionally to a deeper degree. That fascinates me, since it appears to be counter-intuitive. You would think I would be gentler with the ones I love the most, but the opposite is true. I wondered why that is.
3) Two things struck me during the month when I was focusing on meekness – relative to both my biological family and my on-line family (those people I have come to love and admire in my blogging spheres).
a) I am more protective of those I love, and the deeper that love is the more strong my protective instincts are. Therefore, I tend to “defend” them more instinctively – which means to act more quickly and reflexively – which means with less pre-thought and consideration and control. In these instances, I allow myself to be acted upon (to respond reactively) more often than when I have time consciously to think about and “choose” my actions (to respond proactively). Iow, when I feel that someone I love and/or admire greatly is being attacked or unfairly accused, I tend to fall back on whatever my “natural” reaction is – which tends not to be as gentle as I want it to be.
b) I have higher expectations of those I love and admire. I want them to be better – to grow – to progress – to be more Christlike. When some stranger does or says something insensitive or mean or even terrible, I don't like it – but I am not invested emotionally as deeply in that person as I am in someone whom I know far better and have served directly. Therefore, I am more able to respond in a gentle fashion – since my expectations were lower at the time. I found myself on many occasions that month and since, as I blog at various locations, being able to “step back” and reword my initial comments – often with the explicit statement “as gently as I can say this”. That has been encouraging to me.
It is much harder, however, when the insensitive, mean or even terrible thing that is said or done comes from a family member or someone on a blog whom I love and/or admire. My natural reaction is to be disappointed and, by extension, hurt by such words or actions; hence, my natural response is to deflect that disappointment and hurt back to the source – and that is not a naturally gentle action.
I have never understood very well the axiom, “You only hurt the ones you love.” I always have thought it was completely wrong and nonsensical, since I know -and know of – plenty of people who hurt those they don't love – often in terrible ways. I think I understand it better at the end of this month.
I think this is more of a terrestrial law, while what I understood previously is more of a telestial law. At the telestial level, people hurt people – with little distinction between those they love and those they don't love. At the terrestrial level, people have learned to not judge and react toward those they don't know; hence, they only hurt those they know – and those they love are those they know the best. (They are the only ones who care about you enough to be hurt by your actions; they are the only ones about whom you care enough to react in a hurtful way.)
At the celestial level, people stop judging those they know and love; they stop projecting their own expectations onto others completely and simply accept them as they are; they respond gently and lovingly because they stop holding others to a false standard those others simply can't live. It seems like such a paradox, since our ultimate focus should be to help others learn and grow, but that service can be given without expectation and pressure and disapproval and condemnation; it can be given gently and with love.