Friday, February 28, 2014

My Lips Are Sealed

He was oppressed and treated harshly,
    yet he never said a word.
He was led like a lamb to the slaughter.
    And as a sheep is silent before the shearers,
    he did not open his mouth. (Isaiah 53:7)

I was thinking about this passage today and what it might say about a defensive attitude. How many times have I failed to keep silent when it would have been the best choice for relational harmony? How many times did I not choose the path of (what would feel like) suffering for the right reason?

Maybe you are like me and think that you should have a retort for everything. You might think that to fail to answer a criticism would be weak. Was Jesus weak in the above passage?

I think Jesus knew his mission and would not stray from it. He had a focus on the big picture that governed his behavior and his attitude.

It could be the same with us. When we get frustrated in our marriages and other relationships we can keep a macro outlook and let things go without challenging them. It is not immediately satisfying, but godly humility is the road to emotional maturity. Is that a goal of yours?

I am not advocating passively tolerating real abuse in a relationship. That is a condition that calls for immediate and appropriate action. It requires that we speak up. But what some might interpret as emotional abuse could actually be disagreement. Can you accept that people will not always agree with you and refrain from pushing back? Is preserving a relationship more important to you than winning an argument?

To paraphrase our pastor recently, “Forgiving is choosing to suffer, instead of holding onto our right to make someone else suffer.” It hurts to hold our tongue when we feel slighted or misunderstood. It doesn’t feel fair. Again, it feels weak. But if I’m a big picture guy I understand that my mission is to glorify Christ with my life. Sometimes that requires making sacrifices that almost feel untenable. Perhaps, that especially means surrendering my pride.

I have noticed that this defensive posture is a learned automatic response in most people. In other words, it is a deeply ingrained habit. And we all know that it takes awareness, desire, and above all, intentional, often painful work to break any habit. And for this one, often there is no immediate reward. The reward comes as a relationship improves over time.   

I have found that it is easy to receive mercy and grace – not so much to give it. A non-defensive attitude is an incredibly precious gift that you have to offer in any relationship. 

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