Thursday, December 30, 2010

Being Nice or Being a Doormat?

In a dream the other night, a married couple, co-workers of mine at a large company, confronted me in the conference room and wanted me to resign. I couldn't imagine why. They said because they considered me a threat to their marriage. I couldn't fathom such an absurdity; I had never even looked at the man the wrong way. Looking at the very young woman, I thought, "Who wants that young dork of a husband of yours, anyway? I can't even imagine why you'd want him!" but I didn't say it. I considered whether to accede to this demand or not.

In the dream, I decided to do it, for the sake of being nice and of being humble. I didn't really need the job anyway.

In real life, that would be a deplorable thing to do. It definitely would not qualify as being loving. It's hardly loving to allow someone to get away with bullying you. It would only reinforce the bad behavior, thus encouraging more of it. This would certainly not be good for the soul of the other person(s).

I woke up thinking maybe that's the answer I've often looked for to the question: What's the difference between being kind, loving, self-sacrificing or just being a doormat, just being abused? Perhaps the criterion is amazingly simple: what is genuinely good for the other? Good here means spiritually good, helping him grow healthier and stronger and holier and more mature.

I suspect most of the time it's fairly clear what the best is for the other in the given situation. But even if it should be hard to discern, we have to make that evaluation as best we can, both for our own sake and the sake of the other. It's a call that needs to be made with prayer and humility and ideally, with the guidance of our spiritual father.

If the sacrifice you're considering making is not good for the other, you may both end up resenting it. But if it is for the other's best, it will turn out to be for your best, too.

I can imagine situations, though, in which taking abuse does turn out to be the best course of action because every available way of trying to put a stop to it is too unkind.

Jesus didn't put a stop to those who seized Him and mistreated Him and crucified Him.