‘People are the most complex people to work with’. It’s a simple and silly phrase but it’s been racking my brain lately. For social workers, ministers and all of us in the social sciences, there is a particularly unique stressor we face; the ever-changing constantly in-flux attitudes, behaviors, opinions and desires of the people we serve.
People are complicated.
I don’t typically watch ‘reality’ TV but lately I have been getting into a show called Utopia. The basic premise of the show is a group of different people with different backgrounds and beliefs come together to form a new society. I’m sure the characters were carefully selected and wouldn’t be surprised if the whole thing is scripted but the premise does speak to the uniqueness of the individual. Each episode is filled with the frustrations of differing opinions on how money, time and efforts should be spent and what would be best for the society. There is basically constant arguing and it’s anything but a utopia.
We often demand on our way. In our society of American culture we have a strong sense of internal justice to the point of condemnation. We have a tit-for-tat mentality, you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. The same is true for the way we think about injustices, you bloody my nose and I bloody yours back. After all, it’s only fair isn’t it? Even the Bible tells us ‘A tooth for a tooth’.
As a youth worker, I have often encountered other youth workers, parents, teachers, etc. that have used this same mentality in their work with the youth they serve. The youth they work with my yell, scream, and be uncontrollable so the adult yells and screams right back hoping to control the kid when in reality all they are doing is becoming uncontrollable themselves.
This morning in church my pastor was talking about gentleness an idea from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. ‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.’ Matthew 5: 5. In our selfish attempts to get what we want we often try throwing a fit. Kids do it and adults do it to, it just looks a little more refined. Yet, according to this Bible verse we will ‘inherit the earth’ by doing just the opposite, by being meek or gentle.
I’m learning that it’s true especially when working with youth. A whisper often gets the desired outcome more than a scream. A relationship built on trust, kindness and gentleness is a catalyst for positive outcomes.
Richard Foster in his book, Celebration of Discipline, has this to say-
‘In submission we are at last free to value other people. Their dreams and plans become important to us. We have entered into a new, wonderful, glorious freedom- the freedom to give up our own rights for the good of others. For the first time we can love people unconditionally. We have given up the right to demand that they return our love. No longer to we feel we have to be treated in a certain way. We rejoice in their successes. We feel genuine sorrow in their failures. It is of little consequence that our plans are frustrated if their plans succeed. We discover that it is far better to serve our neighbor than to have our own way.’
People are complicated and gentleness doesn’t make them any less complex but what it does do is it makes them valued, respected and reflects the love of Jesus. In essence, it is the foundation of a real utopia; A world where the only person who gets their way is everyone else.