Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Hide of a Rhinoceros

I've been thinking about hurt feelings lately. Mainly because it was my feelings that were hurt. So here's what I've been wondering about.

There's this statement about ministers that they need to have the hide of a rhinoceros and the heart of a child. I don't know how true that is. It sounds pithy. And there's a good point behind it: you need to have a big heart and a thick skin. Which, when you think about it, the two are sort of in tension. Because when you open yourself up to care about other people -- whether in ministry, or just in general -- you become more sensitive to their likes & dislikes. And in being more sensitive to others, you tend to also become more sensitive about your own likes & dislikes. And especially when certain someones jump all over your dislikes -- it's difficult not to be offended.

So is the same true about developing a thick skin? In making you less susceptible to pain, does it also make you less loving in terms of sensing other people's pain? Questions I'm wondering about...

Because it is a virtue to me to not become irritable. I admire people who can step above the drama of feeling slighted. And I have a difficult time being with people who never pass up an opportunity to get upset. From Day 6 of The Love Dare:

To be irritable means "to be near the point of a knife." Not far from being poked. People who are irritable are locked, loaded, and ready to overreact.

If you're like me, you can instantly think of a handful of people who fit the profile. And they're probably difficult to get along with, or to make happy. And you don't wanna be like those people.

Until you realize that the things that offend them are probably the same kinds of things that get you up in arms. Am I right?

But that whole "hide of a rhinoceros" idea -- that doesn't mean that you're impervious. It does not mean that you have impregnable armor on. It just means your skin is thicker. So perhaps getting irritated isn't the same as being irritable. Right?

But how do you know the difference?

The one thing that comes to mind is what made Jesus irritated after he'd had his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. He entered into the Temple, and was disgusted with the way commerce was happening there. And so he whipped into action. I don't believe I'm prepared to say that Jesus was irritable. I'm not sure anyone could say that. But he did get irritated.

And why? Was it becomes someone had stepped on his toes? Or become the final straw on the camel's back? No. It was because what broke the heart of God broke Jesus' heart. What was happening there violated God's values. It was wrong, and it deserved that response.

There's a sign at the athletic facility for the University of Alabama football players that Saban has the players look at & touch/tap before they enter the practice field. It says, "Out of myself and into the team." That is, that the team's ambitions, goals, and values are more important than any one person's ambitions, goals, and values. Or, to put it another way, "He must become greater; I must become less." (John 3:30) The things that violate God's values deserve a tough response. And the more that it is those kinds of things that upset us, rather than our own selfish pet peeves, I'd say that the more we can measure our spiritual growth.

I'm trying to learn that getting irritated does not necessarily mean I or anyone else is irritable. And I'm trying to discern the difference between the two. But sometimes I wonder if that requires more sober-minded thinking than I am even capable of.