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Try a Little Tenderness

Try A Little Tenderness

Hello, everyone.

For no known reason, the song “Try A Little Tenderness” started racing through my mind this morning (1/7). The song was written in the 1930s by Jimmy Campbell, Reg Connellyand Harry M. Woods, and recorded initially on December 8, 1932 by the Ray NobleOrchestra. Others, like Otis Redding and Three Dog Night, have covered it, with some success. Here are the lyrics:

“Try A Little Tenderness”

She may be weary
Women do get weary
Wearing the same shabby dress
And when she’s weary
Try a little tenderness

She may be waiting
Just anticipating
Things she may never possess
And while she’s without them
Try a little tenderness

It’s not just sentimental
She has her grief
And her cares
But a word
Soft and gentle
Makes it easier to bear
So much easier to bear

You won’t regret it
Women don’t forget it
Love’s got a whole
A whole happiness
And it’s all so easy
Just to try a little tenderness

You’ve gotta try
You’ve gotta hold ‘er
You’ve got ta squeeze her
You have to try
You’ve got ta try
And always please her
You won’t regret it
You won’t regret it
Try a little tender-ness

What has this love song got to do with anything? Actually, to me, this song isn’t just a love song. In my opinion, it is a fine lesson on how to treat people.

There are two basic ways to get people to respond to you. One is by bullying, so that they embrace you and react to you out of fear for their physical, mental, and emotional safety. The other way is to treat them in such a way that they love and respect you to the degree that they want to be part of your cause, regardless of what that cause is.

I have frequently quoted the line from the old Popeye cartoon: “You can catch more flies with sweetness than you can with sour puss.” That is so true. When one treats others with kindness and respect, he can win them to his cause far easier than he can if he is overbearing with people and comes down on them with an iron fist.

I never saws this better portrayed than in my involvement with the Lay Witness Mission movement in the United Methodist Church in the 1970s. When a church scheduled a Mission, often its biggest problem was winning the support of its people. I’ll illustrate this with a story that actually happened.

During the weekend of March 30 – April 1, 1973, I was the pianist for a Mission at Nardin Park UM Church in Farmington, Michigan. When it was time to leave and fly back to Iowa, a couple from the church drove us down to Detroit’s Metro Airport. On the way down, we were talking, and the husband related how he was opposed to the Mission from the start because he feared that it would be a miniature Billy Graham crusade. But, he said, he was so touched by the sincere love that he experienced and was shown that morning in church, that he made the decision to make a commitment of his life to God. After the service, he went to Tank Harrison, who was the Mission Coordinator, and he told Tank how touched he was in the service, and he asked Tank if there was anything that he could do to be part of the weekend. You guessed it. Taking Phil, his Aunt Ramona, and me to Metro Airport was his part in the weekend.

Now how was it that this dear man’s attitude did a 180-degree reversal, and thus let him be a part of the weekend? We Mission team members simply tried a little tenderness. The philosophy of the movement was that we simply determined to show the love of God to the people whom we ministered to. Many of us on the Mission team were horrified by Billy Graham and his eternal focus on Hell instead of the love of God. We kept “Jesus” out of the equation and simply spoke on God’s goodness in our lives. There is an old saying that says “You have to be winsome if you’re going to win some.” That is what we did; we did our best to be winsome. Or, in other words, we tried a little tenderness.

 I was raised in the Nazarene Church, and during my boyhood I heard so much belching and farting about “Hell” that that subject became a non-issue with me. I got to the place where I couldn’t stand to listen to Billy Graham any more. During my first year of graduate study in Kirksville, Missouri, I served as a counselor at a showing of the Graham film “The Restless Ones” at the local theater. We had virtually no response. One night, we DID have a good response, and we took the seekers behind the screen to minister to them. The person I worked with said that he had a huge problem with the concept of “Hell”. I told him I did too, and that I had put “Hell” out of my thinking. I told the guy that the purpose of my love and devotion to God was because of God’s love for me. The guy said that he could accept that, and he made a decision – not to “Jesus,” but to God. That likely would not have happened if I had not tried a little tenderness.

 This principles works in other areas of life besides religion. As I said earlier, the surest way to win people to your point of view is with kindness and gentleness – “tenderness,” in other words. I am a registered Democrat and nearly always vote Democrat because that party is the closest to my personal philosophy of life. But I vote Democrat for a second reason. It has been my personal observation and experience that Republicans spend all of their time demonizing their Democratic opponents. They do this to such an extreme that they never get around to discussing the issues or their stand on the issues. To me, voting for a Republican in any race is like buying a pig in a poke, or like a blind man buying something without being able to see what he is buying. Just one word of wisdom for you, Mr. Republican: If you don’t tell me your position on the issues, then there is just no way that I am going to vote for you.

 Just now as I type, I found a paragraph in an email from one of the Asperger’s Syndrome groups that I read that is so germane to this discussion that I will quote it here:

“I know that when you get worrying about what people think about what you think, you’ve forgotten one thing about human behavior… each of us as individuals are not all that important to the general masses. They aren’t thinking about you more likely than not. You may have been a blip on their radar, but most likely, they aren’t concerned with your take on it at all. If someone makes it known to you that they have an interest or problem in that area, try to deal with it accordingly, but really and truly, remind yourself consciously that they have their own little selfish reality bubbles, and you are not much worry to them. It’s not that you aren’t important, but this is the truth as far as people in general are concerned.“

WOW!! Talk about telling it exactly as it is! “Remind yourself consciously that they have their own little selfish reality bubbles, and you are not much worry to them.” Talk about a textbook explanation for The Day Carol Cried. Talk about a textbook explanation of why the Christians ran from me when both of my wives died! Talk as well about a textbook explanation when a supposedly mature adult who is also an Evangelical Christian had trouble communicating with the “New Bill” as compared to the “Old Bill,” while Bill’s 19-year-old niece didn’t have a lick of trouble communicating with EITHER the New OR the old Bill!

Gee, I’m getting dizzy!

Speaking of reality bubbles, the one person who was in over his head in terms of reality bubbles was “Jesus.” I have discussed the “Jewels from Jesus” in some detail in the past and so won’t get into them here. But one bubble was Jesus’ demand to be loved above everyone else in our lives. Another was his contempt for those who were not Jews. The incident with the Syrophoenician woman in Matthew illustrates this beautifully. Another bubble was his sense of self-importance which led him to complain to his host Simon the Pharisee about Simon’s perceived lack of graces towards him that Jesus felt that he deserved.

But possibly the greatest of reality bubbles is recorded in Luke 17:11-19. Here is the text:

Luke 17:11-19 Now on his way toJerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border betweenSamariaandGalilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him– and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” (NIV)

My God!! What ever happened to the concept of doing something simply because it is the right thing to do? Wasn’t Jesus capable of healing the poor unfortunate lepers simply because it was a humane action to do so? Jesus’ reaction to the absence of the other nine lepers reminds me of an incident on the CBS Evening News on January 6. CBS reported that the US Navy rescued some Iranians from the grip of some Somali pirates. At the end of the report, Scott Pelley made a comment along the lines of “There’s no record that the rescued Iranians thanked the Navy men for rescuing them. So far there hasn’t been a word of thanks from the Iranian government.” Of course it is nice to be thanked when one does a benevolent act towards another, but is “being thanked” the only motive for doing such an act? If it is, then may the Supreme God have mercy on our souls!

One time when I was much younger – no older than my early 20s – in a church group we were discussing the “healing” of the lepers, and I asked if the other nine were cleansed. The leader of the group said, “Of course they were! Luke says that they were.” I then said, “But Luke also says that Jesus told only the one who returned to thank him that he was healed. He didn’t say that to the other nine.” The leader got angry at me and said something like “Don’t you ever again smear the integrity of the precious Lord Jesus or question his motives in front of me!!” So much for an answer to my question. In later years, I asked the same question of some Mainline friends, and they were also of the opinion that since Jesus did not declare their healing to the other nine lepers, then they were not healed of their leprosy.

There is an old saying – either from The Buddha or the Book of Proverbs – that says “A soft answer turneth away wrath.” Or, in other words, trying a little tenderness accomplishes what meanness and belligerence can never accomplish. I have mentioned in the past a YouTube user who used the handle AngryLittleGirl. She was most active from January, 2007, to the fall of 2009. She posted on a lot of the things one would expect a high-school junior or senior to comment on, but she posted a lot on religious topcs. I found her by accident one day some time after Carol had died. I was searching for videos by Frankie Schaeffer, and the thumbnail of a Girl video was among the thumbnails of Schaeffer videos. I watched her video out of curiosity. Then over time I viewed virtually all of her videos. And I noticed something interesting. When she spoke, she did so calmly, quietly, rationally, and with a sense of poise. In short, she was the exact opposite of her Christian detractors. She was so much like me in many respects, especially in her attitudes towards ignorance and irrationality. By trying tenderness instead of Christian belligerence, she won me as a friend.

As I contemplate the loss of my two wives, I can’t help but contrast the Christian belligerence on both occasions with the tenderness of my Four Catholic Champions when I lost my Ginny and Carol’s sister Ginny and her family when I lost my Carol. Popeye is so right: You CAN catch more flies with sweetness than you can with sour puss.

Henry Clay is said to have said, “I’d rather be right than president.” When the subject under discussion is a noble topic like abolitionism or the cause of peace, then Clay’s statement is a noble utterance. But when the purpose of being right is to lord one’s views over the views of others – as I have seen Evangelicals do throughout my life – then Clay’s words are base and ignoble. Does “being right” ever justify cruel and inhumane treatment of any of God’s children? I think not!

So try a little tenderness. It surely can’t hurt. And – who knows? –it can apply a little healing balm to a wounded soul.

So, Evangelical Christians, take your belligerent bullshit somewhere else, because I can assure you that it does not play inDubuque!

Have yourselves a great day today.



January 8, 2012 - Posted by | Religion, Uncategorized

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