Gentleness ~ Merry-Go-Round (Part 8 of 10)

Read and potentially memorize Philippians 4:4-5.

*This story is enhanced if you pre-read “Too Important to Ever Forget.”*

Working with youth is a trip, a trial and a blessing; always eventful and never boring. One evening after youth choir rehearsal, Carter, (a senior in high school) came up to me and asked for a private conversation. It was easy to say yes. Carter was a fine young man and still is. I sat down in my office as Carter plopped into the wingback chair and jumped into his dilemma. 

“Lindsey and I have been dating for over a year. I really love her and we normally get along great. But, sometimes, well, maybe a lot, we get into fights over the stupidest stuff. They never end well and they are driving us apart. What do I do?”

Knowing Carter and Lindsey as I do, I made some broad assumptions.

“Carter, it seems like you and your girlfriend are on a communication merry-go-round. You guys are not alone. Many, many couples just like you find themselves on the same playground. I imagine it goes like this: you say something, she corrects it and articulates her perspective, you justify your thoughts with a bit of history of how you remember the past and she responds with her interpretation. Volume increases. Intensity grows as each of you try to win. The merry-go-round spins faster and faster. Someone better figure out how to drag a foot on the ground and slow the thing down. If not, someone’s getting nauseous or someone’s getting hurt and thrown off and that person is likely to walk away.”

Carter followed my metaphor and saw their relationship reflected in the silly story. “So, how do I drag my foot?”

“The next time you and Lindsey find yourselves jumping on the merry-go-round, multi-task. Listen to what she is saying as you ask yourself this question: ‘What is Lindsey feeling right now?’ Carter, while spinning on this communication nightmare, imagine what emotions are going on inside your hearts? Then, when the time is right, gently, and with a soft countenance, tell Lindsey how you imagine she is feeling in that very moment. You are not allowed to rehearse any history on what brought you to this conclusion. You can only share what, not why, no history, no events, no proof, no rationale.

“Too often, we argue about things which have no ultimate significance. We often fight about the debris of what happens in life and not how that event makes us feel deep inside. What really matters? The status of the heart is where the important conversations take place.”

Carter, not sure it would work, agreed to give it a try. Then both of us walked out of the church together and separated in our different vehicles; Carter into his rugged F150 and I dropped into my 25 year old. . .classic?

At midnight, the phone rang with Carter on the line.

“You asleep?”

“Carter, I’m up. Is everything ok?”

“Yeah, great. Listen, Lindsey and I were kind of fighting and I tried the thing you suggested. I guessed that she felt unheard and that maybe she felt like she wasn’t a priority in my life. I was pretty cool. I mean, at least we stopped bickering and talked about our relationship.”

“That’s cool, Carter. You dragged your foot! Is that why you called me?”

“Not exactly. You didn’t tell Lindsey the rules! Will you explain this to her?”

“Carter, its midnight! Bring Lindsey by tomorrow after school and we’ll continue. Is that ok?”

Still on the phone but talking to Lindsey, “you free tomorrow afternoon? Yup, we’ll be there.”

Carter and Lindsey showed the next day holding hands. Carter moved the chairs so they could sit side-by-side. We continued to talk about the nature of communicating.

Once I brought Lindsey up to speed I continued to describe communication merry-go-rounds.

“People find themselves in circular traps of communication in all kinds of different ways for all kinds of different reasons. Sometimes, couples fall into the trap of silent merry-go-rounds, or procrastinated conversations due to conflict avoidance. Sometimes, couples are unequal in the communication tactics and the merry-go-round wobbles due to greater weight on one side over another. All too often, couples fight unfairly, bringing wounds from previous falls on the playground. Some people even bring weapons onboard and fight unfairly or bring recruits to tag team against their partner.”

“It seems to me that the greatest way to drag your foot when the spinning is winning is through shared empathy. When true, deep empathy is sought a beautiful transition occurs. When people make a conscious effort to step into the shoes of their partner, everything changes. Partners feel heard, known, understood, and perceived. When people feel these things, verbal swords lose their power, volumes diminish, and the Holy Spirit has the opportunity to work through gentleness. Until this moment, gentleness has not had room to create understanding, healing, and eventual peace.”

“Few, in today’s culture, truly value gentleness. Gentleness is not a sign of meekness or weakness. It is quite the opposite. Gentleness comes through soft spoken strength that has nothing to prove or convince. It is neither masculine nor feminine. It is spiritual.

Gentleness has the amazing power to embrace through understanding even if agreement is not an option.”

“Gentleness was exemplified in Christ who dealt with sinners in the midst of their sin with empathy and understanding. And through his gentleness, he changed hearts and lives, including mine.”

“Carter, Lindsey, you have been given a gift in the relationship seated beside you. Honor that gift through mutual empathy and allow gentleness to bless your relationship.”

This is too important to ever forget. Gentleness is born out of empathy and has the power to bring clarity to the places of chaos.

Life is complicated sometimes. But complicated does not have to mean louder to overpower softer voices. Complicated issues do not have to lead to distorting facts to prove a point. There do not always have to be winners and losers. The complex can be dealt with gently, and through gentleness the complex has the greatest opportunity to find resolution.

What are the people around you feeling? And then be reminded of the power of gentleness. Regardless how chaos strives to overshadow gentleness, reach for gentleness deep within you from God. You were born to experience gentleness and offer gentleness to a harsh world. Today, more than any other day, choose gentleness as your demeanor. Share gentleness, repeatedly and enthusiastically. With all you encounter, empathize, imagine how others feel, then offer a gentle word of understanding. May this string around your finger elicit a breath prayer every time you see it. May your prayer remind you that gentleness is a Fruit of the Holy Spirit. It is yours to seek, experience and share.

Be challenged. And then be ready to be blessed by gentleness.

Tie a string around your seventh finger and may it remind you use empathy to inspire gentleness.

Choose a breath prayer and memorize. Here are three examples for your consideration:

    1. “Holy Spirit, fill me with gentleness. Use me to inspire gentleness.”
    2. “May the seed of gentleness in me, bear Fruit of gentleness around me.”
    3. “As I rest in the Holy Spirit, gentleness rests in me.”

Repeat this prayer to yourself every time you glance at the string around your finger.

Say it. . .maybe 20 times today.

Mean it when you say it at least 5 times.

Change what you are doing to reflect this prayer at least once, today.

May this spiritual discipline today, bring you closer to God and closer to the person God hopes you will become.

Take time to reflect, journal, pray.

In the opening welcome and introduction to this website, I shared the Scripture that inspired this online adventure, I Tim 6:20. This text is also the origination of the name; “Sacred Chatter.” However, my intent is not to be a singular voice. I invite your voice to be a part of the “chat” and I base this on another of my favorite Scriptures: Hebrews 10:24. “And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds.” I am considering how I can provoke love and good deeds in places beyond where I live. This is my attempt to enter into a Hebrews 10 conversation with you over social media.digitally. Now, I am interested in your feedback. Consider what provoking you can provide with your own Sacred Chatter.

What’s important to you? What really matters?

Add your voice in Sacred Chatter.

Love is ours to provoke. Good deeds are ours to sew.

That the wisdom of Hebrews 10 may flourish and grow.

Email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, they’re potential mediums for the Hebrews 10 plan.

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