28 Aug Embracing a Posture of Gentleness in the Workplace
Lately, I’ve experienced an especially busy and stressful season at work and at home. After 18 difficult months, I’ve noticed that on top of the physical and emotional exhaustion, I am—as I’m sure many others are as well—making more mistakes, more forgetful, and finding myself increasingly challenged to stay mindful of all the good God has given amidst these hard times.
I recently read a blog by John Pletcher which I found deeply relevant for our moment and wanted to add a reflection or two on his keen insights.
Pletcher describes this last year like the scene in the classic movie The Princess Bride, where Westley and Buttercup are navigating the Fire Swamp and are met with peril after peril ambushing them on their journey. Think of what we’ve seen this past season:
- Displaced work, overwork, loss of work
- Racial strife and political polarization
- Relational isolation, tension, and confusion in social settings
- Loss and fear from illness
- Natural disasters
The Bottom Line:
We may be finding ourselves easily frazzled and upset or even experiencing anxiety and depression.
Continuing to heal and move forward toward a “new normal” begs for grace at home, at church, and at work. The posture in Scripture that Jesus displayed in the face of heavy burdens and trouble is surprisingly that of gentleness. Jesus said:
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matt. 11:29)
The unique thing about this type of gentleness is its ability to lead to rest and peace.
This gentleness, to many of us driven types, seems like strange advice. Evoking images of milquetoast or of pleasant, but evasive replies designed to avoid confrontation. Think of the context of Jesus’ description of himself. Nothing but expectations of ongoing trouble. Matthew chapters 10 and 11 are full of warnings of rejection and persecution, coming judgment for unrepentant cities, and of Jesus preparing his followers to endure these hard times.
Interestingly, the only passage in the gospels which gives a descriptive term for Jesus’ personal nature is Matthew 11:29 and the context is hard testing times. Jesus is described as gentle and lowly (or humble) and God is revealing his true nature as gentle/humble/meek in the person of Jesus himself.
Then in 2 Corinthians 10:1, Paul entreats the Corinthian church by the “meekness and gentleness of Christ,” and explains that it involves both firm confrontation of sin in his letters, and kind, gentle interactions in person. The term “meek” is not a passive compliance but rather a controlled and respectful strength. The same word was sometimes used for a highly-trained war-horse, obedient, in control, ready to serve its master, knows its place, but powerful and ready for action. In fact, the Sermon on the Mount depicts God’s people as “meek” (Matt. 5:5) but then states that these same meek people are those who will rule the earth as their inheritance.
Pletcher explains our typical reaction to the word “gentleness” in the context of our work, “Fast-paced, make-it-happen leaders might still say, ‘Okay, gentleness is great at home and at church, but no way will it work at work.’’ Pletcher cites Taking Your Soul to Work by R. Paul Stevens and Alvin Ung in this helpful explanation:
Such gentleness requires a profound respect for the personal dignity of the other. A gentle person studiously avoids any coercion, intimidation, or threats. If possible, he or she might seek to change a wrong attitude through a kind act or persuasive word, but a gentle person will refuse to force his or her hand against another person’s will. A gentle person seeks to move at the pace of another person’s readiness to make changes or embrace a goal. This is exactly the kind of person you’d like to have as your boss or leader. Self-assured, he or she empowers you in a way that’s suited to your needs.
Becoming the gentle and meek person we are called to be by God, requires that we, and especially myself this season, must first receive the gentle and meek savior—the very one who asks us to let him bear the heavy burdens of our lives and then take on his light yoke and find our rest. And no surprise that this is exactly what Jesus commands (Matthew 11:28-29).
We need wholehearted and daily dependence on our good God as his beloved children through Jesus who loves us. Let’s slow down and lean into this as we re-engage life and work. This is where we started in Jesus and this is what will nurture our weary hearts and Christ-like posture toward the world.
From the Center for Faith + Work Los Angeles