The Touch of Tenderness
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Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude.—1 Peter 3:81
Everybody needs encouragement! Most people feel a certain amount of inferiority complex and tend to get a little discouraged with themselves, so encouragement is a very important thing! We all need the encouragement of others, and yet most of us fail all too often to express appreciation or comfort to those about us.
The Lord knows that encouragement is very important. … “Whatsoever things are good, if there be any virtue and if there be any praise, think on these things!”2 We need to apply that to those around us and try to remind ourselves constantly to think on and praise others for their good qualities, the good things, as the Lord does with us! Amen?—David Brandt Berg
Listen, son, I am saying this as you lie asleep, one little paw crumpled under your cheek and the blond curls stickily wet on your damp forehead. I have stolen into your room alone. Just a few minutes ago, as I sat reading my paper in the library, a stifling wave of remorse swept over me. Guiltily, I came to your bedside.
These are the things I was thinking, son: I had been cross to you. I scolded you as you were dressing for school because you gave your face merely a dab with a towel. I took you to task for not cleaning your shoes. I called out angrily when you threw some of your things on the floor.
At breakfast I found fault, too. You spilled things. You gulped down your food. You put your elbows on the table. You spread butter too thick on your bread. And as you started off to play and I made for my train, you turned and waved a hand and called, “Goodbye, Daddy!” and I frowned, and said in reply, “Hold your shoulders back!”
Then it began all over again in the late afternoon. As I came up the road I spied you, down on your knees, playing marbles. There were holes in your stockings. I humiliated you in front of your friends by marching you ahead of me to the house. Stockings were expensive—and if you had to buy them, you would be more careful! Imagine that, son, from a father!
Do you remember, later, when I was reading in the library, how you came in timidly, with a sort of hurt look in your eyes? When I glanced up over my paper, impatient at the interruption, you hesitated at the door. “What is it you want?” I snapped.
You said nothing, but ran across in one tempestuous plunge, and threw your arms around my neck and kissed me, and your small arms tightened with an affection that God had set blooming in your heart and which even neglect could not wither. And then you were gone, pattering up the stairs.
Well, son, it was shortly afterwards that my paper slid from my hands and a terrible sickening fear came over me. What has habit been doing to me? The habit of finding fault, of reprimanding—this was my reward to you for being a boy. It was not that I did not love you; it was that I expected too much of youth. I was measuring you by the yardstick of my own years.
And there was so much that was good and fine and true in your character. The little heart of you was as big as the dawn itself over the wide hills. This was shown by your spontaneous impulse to rush in and kiss me good night. Nothing else matters tonight, son. I have come to your bedside in the darkness, and I have knelt there, ashamed!
It is a feeble atonement; I know you would not understand these things if I told them to you during your waking hours. But tomorrow I will be a real daddy! I will chum with you, and suffer when you suffer, and laugh when you laugh. I will bite my tongue when impatient words come. I will keep saying as if it were a ritual: “He is [only] a boy—a little boy!”
I am afraid I have visualized you as a man. Yet as I see you now, son, crumpled and weary in your cot, I see that you are still a baby. Yesterday you were in your mother’s arms, your head on her shoulder. I have asked too much, too much.—W. Livingston Larned3
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.—Galatians 5:22–234
A prayer for love and mercy
We need You, Jesus!—Gentle, loving Jesus, who wept for the multitude. You were so weary, and yet You looked upon the multitude and had compassion on them and healed them. As exhausted as You were, You didn’t harden Your heart! You stayed tender, quiet, and humble. You wept over them time and again. You didn’t want to see them suffer, and You wept for them.
Help us not to get hard. Because we’re in a hurry, the quick way is to harden our heart. We don’t take the time to soften and melt and love and care for others. Help us, O God, not to get hard!
You had so much to say against the hardness of hearts.5 Help us not to judge others with harshness, Lord. I make so many mistakes and don’t want to be judged harshly, so it’s not hard for me to have mercy. You’re so good to me, Lord, when I’ve been so sinful and such a failure. So I understand how You can help me to be merciful, patient, long-suffering, and kind.
We should put our arms around others and encourage them and inspire and show we have faith in them.
We’re in too big a hurry sometimes. It’s like getting impatient with a little baby. How many years it takes to grow up and for parents to teach and to train them—years of love and patience.
Help us to have patience. Help us to have love. Help us to be willing to take time.
If anything’s to be done, You have to do it, Lord! We have to wait on You, and know You’re the one. Not by power, nor by might, but by Your Spirit.6 We ask that You will teach us patience and faith, which takes time.—David Brandt Berg7
If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any tenderness and mercies, fulfill ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord and of one mind.—Philippians 2:1–28
Where true strength lies
We’re accustomed to thinking of strength as opposite to gentleness, softness, and tenderness. Yet this is not always true. During World War 1 British fighter pilots made an amazing discovery, that thick layers of silk stopped low-velocity shrapnel better than steel. So they wound the silk around their heads and then wore leather horse-riding helmets on top of the silk.
Scientists still aren’t sure just what it is that gives silk its strength, but it’s true, that in certain situations soft, gentle, tender silk can prove far stronger than cold, hard steel.
Jesus showed us the same holds true for human character … that gentleness, a heart that’s soft toward others, and tenderness are in fact qualities of great strength!—From storiesforpreaching.com9
Published on Anchor September 2015. Read by Gabriel Garcia Valdivieso.
Music by Michael Dooley.
2 Philippians 4:8.
3 Originally published in People’s Home Journal. A version of this story on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gig8KkpsWvI.
5 Matthew 7:1–5; Romans 2:1–6.
6 Zechariah 4:6.
7 Originally published May 1971, adapted.