You have been there. You are standing in a customer service line at a local store and the woman at the front of the line is arguing with the store representative. She gets louder and louder and more insistent and belligerent. You cringe. You are embarrassed for her, and you are feeling a lot of empathy for the employee.
I must admit that in the above scenario I always pray that the bully is not a member of our church. In “Christian-speak” we call it “blowing your witness”. That is when your spoken beliefs and your actions do not match. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that Christians have been labeled hypocrites – because in this case it is deserved.
In our premarrieds class I call this out as a red flag issue. I will ask the students to evaluate their partners. How do they treat service people, or wait staff in a restaurant? Are they kind and respectful towards them, or do they treat them as if they were lesser people? And why is this important? Eventually you will become the target of their displeasure and you are likely to be treated just as harshly or disrespectfully. Or you will have to stand by, perhaps in a public setting or in front of friends, thoroughly embarrassed while your beloved is having a temper tantrum.
Yes, there are times when it is appropriate to be assertive. But this does not mean hostile and angry. I have found that the old saying “you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” is largely true. Kindness is much more likely to motivate someone to help you get your needs met than rude or arrogant behavior. When I need to deal with a situation where I desire a corrective response I use phrases like: “I noticed that….”, or “I would like to bring something to your attention”, or “ I would like to request that….”. I usually get good results.
From a Christian standpoint, Jesus suggests that it is better to take the hit, than to insist on getting our way. He never confronted anyone for selfish reasons. Instead he defended the weak; those that were being oppressed or taken advantage of by the religious leaders. Why was he so stern with these Pharisees? They were misrepresenting God to the people.
It is the kindness of God that leads to repentance. Our objective with our Christian brothers and sisters is restoration, not rejection. And our goal with others is to win them over with our love. That can’t be done if we are “pitching a fit”.
Pastor Tim Keller suggests that the solution in marriage (especially) is learning to forgive before confronting. It will change the whole interaction from primarily being a selfish pursuit (wanting only to be heard rather than to restore). Instead of seeking to punish, lecture or condemn, the goal is to connect, to understand and to reconcile.
Red flags mean stop: course correction needed before proceeding.
Romans 12:10 (NIV) Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.
Philippians 2:3-4 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
Ephesians 4:15 (NLT) Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.
John 13:34-35 (NLT) “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”