The meeting started in one hour, and my volunteers were late. I had asked them to be on time. I had strongly encouraged them to be on time. I had even reminded them to be on time. And now my phone was blowing up with text messages explaining to me why they were late. One was stuck in Walmart. Another was in bad traffic coming across town. Family drama kept one from arriving on time. My blood pressure was ratcheting up along with my frustration.
These volunteers were late to a large event that I had coordinated. I had envisioned that the morning would go one way, but with volunteers dropping like flies, it turned out another way. Since they were late, I ended up taking care of their responsibilities instead of fulfilling my own. All of my perfectly crafted plans for a smooth event flew out the window and I was not happy. I was smiling on the outside, but I was angry on the inside.
Have you ever been frustrated with someone? Of course! The friend that promised to meet you for lunch, cancelled, again. The neighbor who committed to help you do something forgot, which seems to happen a lot lately. Your coworker who borrowed money from you hasn’t paid you back. Your husband forgot to tell you about his late night meeting. And let’s not even get started talking about your children!
People frustrate and disappoint us. That is a fact that can’t be changed because we live in a fallen world with imperfect people. But what can be changed is how we react to people that disappoint us. Our reaction to the faults and failures of others is often anger and frustration, but what should it be?
God must have known that we would struggle with this issue because the Bible addresses it. Philippians 4:5 says, “Let your gentle spirit be known to all….” Other translations say, “Let your graciousness be known to everyone” (HCSB) and “Let everyone know how considerate you are” (GOD’S WORD translation).
Researching the Greek word used for “gentle” helps us to get a better understanding of what it means. It is a “sweet reasonableness.” It is a gracious attitude and being considerate. The Strong’s concordance comments that since “God remembers that we are but dust and treats us accordingly, He expects us to treat others as He has treated us.”
The Ralph Martin commentary on Philippians gives this definition:
A gentle spirit is the attitude of a man who is charitable towards men’s faults and merciful in their judgment of men’s failures because he takes their whole situation into account.
How are you doing in being gentle and extending grace to others who frustrate and disappoint you? Do you possess a “sweet reasonableness?”
Instead of bad mouthing the friend that cancels on you, consider her life’s circumstances and give her grace. Instead of being angry with your forgetful neighbor, give her a break because you see that she is just getting older. Choose to be forgiving with your friend that runs late because you see that she just can’t help it given the organizational skills that she has. She’s doing her best. When others disappoint you, be willing to take their whole situation into account and extend grace instead of just thinking about how they have wronged you.
As for me, I am growing in grace in this area. I have come to expect that at the last minute, my phone will explode with text messages as to why people are late. And I am learning to be compassionate and understanding, realizing that they are probably doing their very best, just like me. I am taking their whole situation into account.
Imagine what would happen in our families, in our workplaces, in our friendships, and in our churches if we chose to take someone’s whole situation into account before judging them? What if we allowed love to overlook a multitude of sins, and chose to extend grace to others? What if we let mercy triumph over judgment? There would be healed relationships, mended friendships, and restored families.
Let this be our goal. Let’s be sweetly reasonable with one another.
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