Try A Little Tenderness

Try A Little Tenderness

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. ~Philippians 2:1-4

“What the World Needs Now is Love Sweet Love…” “All You Need Is Love…” “They Will Know We are Christians by Our Love…”  These songs reveal that culturally, we know that love IS the answer. It is a powerful tool for forgiving, compromising, healing and reconciling. It is the very essence of Christianity. And yet, in our supposed Christian nation, we find very little of it being exhibited on our streets, in our media or by our leaders, not to mention in our churches or the myriad households across the country. Certainly, it has been prophesied in the Bible:  “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,” Matthew 24:12. But why?

I wonder if the problem is more fundamental. I wonder if we have failed to learn what real love is. The depictions of love in the media are very simplistic: romantic love, familial love, lust. These depictions show love as a contract: if you love me, I’ll do x; or as an obligation: you must love your children, your parents, your siblings. These are very far from the Biblical love described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, patient, kind, humble, putting others’ needs before our own, dealing with personal issues privately. I can’t really say that in my 50 some years on the planet I’ve witnessed many examples of this kind of love. It is admittedly very difficult. Trying intentionally to live lovingly for the last 20 years has been a real struggle. And living with love conflicts with some strong cultural values, like holding a grudge, publicly airing grievances, being right, getting our way, having control, saying ‘I told you so’…. 

Love includes concepts of integrity, humility, compassion, compromise, tenderness, kindness, tact, diplomacy and self-sacrifice. These qualities are often portrayed as weaknesses which can be exploited by the savvy or cruel. I imagine very few textbooks on business administration link these qualities with success. And fewer practitioners dare to use them in the world of business, law or politics. Certainly, our recent and prolonged standoffs between the President and Congress are evidence of this.

Our personal actions always have consequences for those around us. Always. Although it can certainly be taken too far, it is nevertheless a good practice to consider the impact our actions will have. On a personal level this will change your life and relationships for the better quickly. On a national level, it can change the world. Politicians might decide to compromise rather than leaving innocent workers without a paycheck for months. They might consider actual capabilities and expectations before sending brave, intelligent, highly competent soldiers and patriots into harm’s way. They might come to realize that the only way to truly address the exploitation, violence and criminality of illegal immigration is to stay in a chamber room negotiating, compromising and considering until rational, well thought out policy can be revealed and passed. They might come to grasp that although fixing our crumbling infrastructure will take years of work which will not yield them many re-election votes, it is nevertheless crucial for the thousands of people and businesses using our bridges, ports, roadways, power grids and sewers.

And so, my prayer is that we, as a nation, and a world, might wake up to the power of tenderness. We need to stress this to our children and grandchildren. Instead of belittling strangers on social media, we might encourage and uplift. Rather than believing the worst about a public figure, we might reserve judgement and pray for them instead. Instead of pointing a critical finger at all that is wrong, we might seek to see what is right, and broadcast and nurture that. Or perhaps seek to fix it ourselves. Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther and others saw injustices that were not being addressed and did not think it beyond them to step up and work for change. They started small, individually, and the rightness of their cause grew into a movement.

All of us have the power to brighten the corner we’re in. A kind word or gesture at work, shopping or dining. Pitching in at home. Biting our critical tongue. Refusing to repay meanness with meanness. Letting go of the need for the last word or revenge. Gently encouraging those we might have turned our backs on in the past. Nothing else could be more important. Nothing less will change the world for the better.

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. ~John 13:35


Jen Jahromi