Get along among yourselves, each of you doing your part. Our counsel is that you warn the freeloaders to get a move on. Gently encourage the stragglers, and reach out for the exhausted, pulling them to their feet. Be patient with each person, attentive to individual needs. And be careful that when you get on each other’s nerves you don’t snap at each other. Look for the best in each other, and always do your best to bring it out.
1 Thessalonians 5:14-15 (MSG)
As I look at different translations of the Bible I get diverse perspectives of certain passages. This passage is well known to me and probably to many others as well. What stands out to me in all the versions is this: there is not a one size fits all approach to how we treat people. We all carry different loads, and we must first assess another person’s situation before we know how to speak to them.
There are those who are easily shamed because of past wounds inflicted upon them. Depending on their response style, some may lean toward withdrawing and shutting down. But there are others who become arrogant and rebellious. They both cannot be treated with the same firmness. But they can both be treated with patience and care.
Nan was reading to me yesterday about shame and how those closest to us are most likely to trigger the greatest amounts of shame. Fear of being shamed is an extremely powerful source of relational anxiety. Both men and women will go to great lengths to protect themselves against any anticipated humiliation. Why is it so intense within the family? The truth is, there is a lot of pressure on men to be seen as the “hero” to his family. Wives and children both want him to succeed at this role. To fail is to incur shame at a deep level. Wives, too, have had the burden of needing to be the “superwoman” of the family. It can be tough for both men and women to keep up with the image that has been created by them or for them.
The passage above from 1 Thessalonians instructs us to engage with people regardless of where they might fall on a continuum. Some folks will need to be “lifted up” while others may need to be “jammed up” (confronted). This cannot be accomplished with anger, but rather with appropriate assertiveness. Both those who over-perform and under-perform need guidance, which means maintaining the relationship, especially through the tough spots.
The best way to avoid shaming a person is to approach them in private and express care for them first. The overworked person needs reassurance that they will still be seen just as positively if they share the burden with others. The “freeloaders” must be given a vision of the respect they will receive by being a fully engaged participant. If that doesn’t produce results, then the Bible tells us to enlist more authority (Matt.18:15-16).
Always remember that the goal is restoration. While not always achievable, it still remains the goal.