Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Christian Response to Backhanded Compliments: Reprise

A couple of years ago I posted on a Christian response to backhanded compliments, which is an area where I struggle. Since backhanded compliments come up fairly regularly in my family, that is a subject that comes to mind fairly often; I have kept an eye out for better solutions for some time now.

I was sure there had to be a way to "return good for evil" like Jesus tells us. So I started a mental list of things where I might earnestly return good to the people who tend to comment on me. But the more I've thought about it, the more I've realized why I had trouble thinking of a nice way to respond to a backhanded compliment: I haven't put nearly enough thought into nice things to say in the first place. Why should I wait until someone insults me before I begin looking for kind things to say? Isn't that just asking for failure, in finding those kind things in my heart? Why should I walk into a family gathering and check to see how they treat me before I decide how to treat them? In that case, the best I can do is react (or refuse to react) to a bad situation. I hadn't been going to family gatherings with a clear purpose of making sure everyone felt welcomed and appreciated; I'd gone in defensively, hoping not to take any damage from the usual undercurrent of subtle digs. (In some Christian circles where "intentional" is something of a watchword for a set purpose, it might be thought of as "intentional goodwill".)

It's something of a feeling of freedom, to know that it doesn't matter how they treat me. Christ does not call me to be a weather vane, blown around towards now the good and now the evil depending on how we are treated ourselves. He calls us to follow his Spirit only in this. And for those we meet, if that day they are like a weather vane, we can turn them around by the Spirit of Christ.

My holiday preparation is now simpler: to follow Christ, to know what kinds of things love may bring me to say to them, and not to be sidetracked by petty things.


Anam Cara said...

"intentional goodwill" - I love it! Thanks!

Martin LaBar said...

Great advice!

Weekend Fisher said...

Thanks for the encouraging responses there. I'm trying to get my holiday preparations done early this year. ;)

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF