How To Not Be A Douche
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul the Apostle uses these words at the start of a long section instructing them to pursue unity:
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”Ephesians 4:2 (emphasis mine)
In short, Paul is giving them a few quick tips in ‘how to not be a douche’. I know Dale Carnegie’s book; ‘How to win friends and influence people‘, is an international best-seller, but Apostle Paul said it first when it comes to pursuing unity and being a winsome person.
We can easily skip through this verse, but a lot can be gained from sitting and thinking about each word that Paul uses. So take the opportunity to do that here. Firstly he tells us to…
1. Be Humble [suck up]
Let’s face it, we’ve all had times when we have been shown to be incorrect in our opinion or actions and we’ve had to ‘suck up’ the sour medicine of humility. As uncomfortable as these times can be , they are definitely character shaping and help us remember that we are all still works in progress and are prone to err.
So when it comes to our relationships with each other, it’s always good to adopt a posture of humility, to be teachable, to be willing to be corrected and to not think of ourselves too seriously [insert silly face emoji].
“Those who get up on their high horses often fall very quickly”Said me…just now
Certainly, throughout the Bible, those who humbled themselves before God were generally used in mighty ways, whereas those who were prideful and haughty were often brought low by our supreme and powerful God.
“For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”Matthew 23:12
2. Be Gentle [back up]
Secondly, Paul says to be gentle. The Greek word used here is “prautés” which can also be translated as ‘meekness’ and mean to ‘express power with reserve and gentleness’. This being the idea of not being overbearing or forceful with your actions or words, but considering how someone might receive you best.
Sometimes we can be overcontrolling with our decisions, overbearing with our opinions and offensive with our words and we need to back up and back off a little. Being gentle is putting something forward in a manner most likely to be received positively by the recipient.
Being gentle is having a candid conversation instead of sending a vague and loaded email. Being gentle is waiting till the right time to say something instead of accosting someone inconveniently. Being gentle is not using unnecessary language which causes people to react unnecessarily.
“By the humility and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you–I, Paul, who am “timid” when face to face with you, but “bold” toward you when away!”2 Corinthians 10:1
3. Be Patient [shut up]
Thirdly, Paul implores us to be patient with one another. The Greek word ‘makrothymias’ here means to be long-suffering and effectively be slow to anger.
In many circumstances when people are not doing the things we want or expect, we need to express patience, be slow to anger and effectively ‘shut up’, instead of blasting out our impatience.
God actually describes himself as ‘slow to anger’ in his great self-revelation of Exodus 34. In reading the story of the Bible you see God be immensely patient with a people who are completely unruly and disobedient, them being a representative of all humanity…which includes me and you (oh shucks!).
So if God expresses patience towards us, then it is only fitting to reciprocate that patience to others. Showing patience could be allowing someone to speak without interrupting them or looking for your next chance to say something, but listening to them authentically. In many situations we just need to shut up, stop talking, and start listening.
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance”2 Peter 3:9
4. Be Forbearing [put up]
Finally, Paul exhorts us to be forbearing with one another? What? Yeh, I know, not a word we use often but it effectively means to restrain an impulse to do something and ‘put up’ with someone or something.
Similar to patience, but with worse connotations. To forbear something means to put up with something that is more than mildly inconvenient. It could be something offensive to you, something making you tired and stressed, something making you angry…and that thing could be a person.
In many of our relationships where we just want to tap out because the other person is just too difficult to deal with, Paul encourages us to put up with them. To stay in the game, to stay committed, to not tap out, to not give up. I think this is often why we see a lack of unity, even amongst and within churches, because we fail at this final hurdle. Yet Paul is saying to resist the impulse and the urge to quit on someone.
This is exactly what Jeremiah 29:11 is all about; not a promise of personal blessing, but a commitment God made to not give up on his people.
“This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”Jeremiah 29:10-11