The Didache 33 – Coda

Posted: July 13th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Didache | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

This post, You Cannot Be Too Gentle, captures much of the heart of what I was trying to say about even the difficult ground of reproof. The quote is short so I’ll reproduce it here.

You cannot be too gentle, too kind. Shun even to appear harsh in your treatment of each other. Joy, radiant joy, streams from the face of him who gives and kindles joy in the heart of him who receives. All condemnation is from the devil. Never condemn each other. We condemn others only because we shun knowing ourselves. When we gaze at our own failings, we see such a swamp that nothing in another can equal it. That is why we turn away, and make much of the faults of others. Instead of condemning others, strive to reach inner peace. Keep silent, refrain from judgement. This will raise you above the deadly arrows of slander, insult and outrage and will shield your glowing hearts against all evil.

-St. Seraphim of Sarov

If you condemn you have not brought peace, you have not brought shalom. As the Teaching indicates, there are times we must reprove because we love a person and they are destroying themselves or another. But we must always remember and actually know that we are the chief of sinners even as we reprove. I have very, very rarely been in a relationship where it fell to me to reprove. It’s a situation we should approach with prayer and trembling. I’m sure one who is ordained might be faced with the necessity more than I have been. It does seem to me that much of what I see posed as Christian reproof in many circles today is actually condemnation. And I believe that harms both the one condemning and the one condemned.


5 Comments on “The Didache 33 – Coda”

  1. 1 Molly said at 6:45 pm on July 13th, 2009:

    I suppose in my case, 99% of me agrees with this, but after having a long-term experience of trying, trying, and trying to gently and patiently and warmly and kindly and HUMBLY to deal with an abuser, especially in that I thought for sure that was the Christian way to do it and was committed to try my darndest to walk in love, I… I don’t know.

    I guess I look back and realize that firm decisive action would have been so much more productive than gently trying to correct. When I used warmth and humility, transparency and kindness, they were turned on me and used as knives. My gentle corrections were always turned around on me and so the end of the rare conversations where I would attempt to address issues would be ME taken to task for something, which I would agree with (because who’s perfect) and the other person would end up side-stepping the original topic of the conversation, yet again… It took me, sadly, YEARS to see this, years to realize that I was always the one wrong, that he never was at fault…

    Because I agree with the quote above, that we individually have plenty of faults of our own, I would look in my own heart and feel unable to address the very real issues going on, since I was yet to reach a state of perfection. And since this is what he did, too, always pointing at me, blaming me, condemning me (always for my own good, he said and believed), and since I wanted to be humble and learn and grow and therefore listened to him, it was even worse…

    I guess when all is said and done, a lot of this assumes maturity and wholeness on the part of both parties. But there is a very real dynamic that occurs when one party is NOT mature or whole, when one party IS actively trying (whether aware of it or not) to cause harm to the other, when one party is comitted to the opposite of shalom. And in that case, it does not matter WHAT the other person does… (see narcissism, etc). In fact, the more gentle they are, the more they will be taken advantage of; the more they try for peace, the more they will be used.

    In these cases, I feel that much popular Christian teaching sides with the abuser, not the abused, and yet the Bible is very clear that God comes out on the side of the weak and the downtrodden, not on the side of the oppressor. What is the Christ-follower to do?

    I’m rambling…and this is, of course, rather personal…but it’s something that is often missed…and now I need to get back to my work (hard to work when you are employment is computer-based, lol, and actually STAY working)…

  2. 2 Scott said at 8:06 pm on July 13th, 2009:

    You cannot be too gentle and you need to stay away from condemnation. But you can’t stay in any sort of voluntary relationship with one who abuses you. It’s unloving to yourself and it’s unloving to the abuser if you continue to afford them the opportunity to dehumanize themselves. Been on the receiving end of different sorts of abuse at different stages of life. I have little sympathy for those who abuse. The best thing you can do is stay away from them.

  3. 3 Molly said at 9:41 pm on July 13th, 2009:

    I agree.

    But there are five kids. And there are promises that things will change.

    It is very very difficult. No easy answers here, and none coming any time soon. All choices are going to hurt people in potentially irreparable ways. I am waiting and watching from afar, hoping that at some point, I can eventually discern what the least-horrid path is to take my children down.

    It was incredibly difficult to realize it was abuse in the first place. Complementarian theology presupposes many things, the first being that women need men to lead them because they are more easily deceived (this means I can’t trust myself, that I must not listen to my thoughts and feelings because they are probably going to be wrong), the second being that God speaks through my spiritual authority and His plans for me are the same thing as the plans my spiritual authority has for me. Take someone with a steadily growing (unknown) mental illness and strong leadership tendancies and a leadership position in the church and a belief that a strong women have something wrong with them and see what happens to his wife over a period of years…

    I guess I’m just saying that I agree with the above quote, and yet feel that it’s important that a caveat be thrown in. The above quote in your post is so GOOD…and yet if it is read and practiced by a person who is living with an abuser…? Not so good.

    The ideal is that we all operate as one. But ever since the fall, the ideal is often unattainable…and when pursued, often meets a tragic end. I suppose discernment is key. It’s just that often the best discernment is found in hindsight, but by then, it’s usually too little, too late.

  4. 4 Scott said at 11:31 pm on July 13th, 2009:

    No easy answers. None from my life. None from the life of friends of mine or of my wife. I’ve never encountered, seen, or lived an easy answer.

    I hear that it is possible for an abuser to be healed if they truly seek healing. I’ve heard there are some who have successfully changed and become almost new people.

    But I’ve never seen it happen.

    Ever.

    And unfortunately I can call to mind far too many examples.

    I will also say that however much you might think kids are shielded or unaware of what is happening … they aren’t. At least, that’s my experience. What’s best for them? An emotionally healthy environment (or at least as close as you can create) that is as stable as you can manage. But kids are also resilient. Trust me on that. People tend to be shocked I’m as sane as I am when I describe the chaos that was my childhood. The strange thing was that a lot of the time I didn’t really experience it as chaotic. I just went with the flow.

    An abuser will twist anything, however good it is. I know the quote is good. And I know the alternative is worse. And I do know how your perception of yourself and of others around you can become warped and twisted so that you’re not even sure that up isn’t down or right isn’t left. Been there. Have the scars.

    Grace and peace. Grace and peace. I can offer no other prayer.

  5. 5 Molly said at 12:14 am on July 14th, 2009:

    I agree…

    And I’ve heard that it is possible too. Things are helped by having a diagnosis now, coupled with meds, coupled with counseling, coupled with a firmly maintained separation. There are hard things, of course, complications, but there always are. I am planning that it probably won’t work out, but at the same time, I am willing to try again if the right conditions are met over a long period of time.

    Thanks for your prayer. I probably got too personal here. Just sharing where I’m coming from with regards to anger, etc, and the quote above and all related things. I appreciate your thoughts and your insights. On anger, the strange thing is that many of my scars come from other people’s anger. Yet when I realized the full extent of how badly I’d been hurt, lied to, and destroyed, and when I realized that the years and the scars are things that will never be made whole, and when I realized that all the time I spent trying and praying and crying and reading this and that book to try and fix things was a big waste, I was so angry. All the anger that I had never allowed myself to express or even acknowledge during all those years came out in one huge rushing tide that I thought might swallow me whole, but I knew I had to get it out or it would kill me. Months later, one day, it just was gone. It was the strangest thing, a most incredibly healing thing in such an unexpected form.