Friday, August 1, 2008

Taking Abuse Quietly: Always a Good Thing?

A friend of mine has been mistreated over the last month or so at work. I asked her the other day whether it's getting better or worse. She wrote,

"things are getting worse, which means its getting better :) There must be a cross, right?"

Kinda, unless your going to end up having a meltdown.

Yes, the abuse of others is often a cross, but I think Abba Evagrius puts it best:

Stirrings of anger are calmed by psalmody, magnanimity and mercifulness. All this has its effect when used at its proper time and in due measure. Everything untimely or without proper measure is short-lived; and short-lived things and more harmful than useful*.

I think the application here is that we are called to calm our anger, with God's help, through mercy and magnanimity (i.e., being a "big-hearted" guy or gal). But not too much big-heartedness and not too soon. Otherwise, it won't "stick" for the long-run, and you may end up over-reacting. If you can't take it, speak up.
*Texts on Active Life, No. 6


Anonymous said...

Great post...I personally think this is one of the most difficult topics in Christianity. On the one hand we are taught to carry our cross, and on the other we have people will use that to their advantage.

I am reminded by a couple of examples. First is when Jesus was slapped...He didn't just sit there quietly. He asked, "Why did you hit me?" (Jn 18:23). Taking that into the current situation, if someone's being mistreated at work, it is not wrong to ask, "why are you mistreating me?" Keeping quiet and suffering for the sake of suffering is not what Christ taught, I don't think.

Secondly, I am reminded by St. Paul's letter to the Galatians, where he urges them to "Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." (6:2). But just a few verses later, he says, "For each one shall bear his own load." The way I interpret these verses together, I think that Christ wants us to bear other's burdens when they are too heavy, but when someone isn't bearing his own load...go back to John 18:23.

magdog said...

In and of itself abuse has no redeeming quality. It is the volitious acceptance and toleration of abuse that make it count as 'cross bearing'. In other words, this puts the abused in control of the situation. Each time your rights are violated you are given a choice to resist, fight back or forgive. While in control of your anger you can (and may be, should) express that it was your choice to let go. This prevents the build up of hidden resentment and hate the might one day lead to an explosion of violence. This is in line with words of St. Evagrius.