Letting our gifts take their natural course while deliberately working on our weaknesses has been a theme of mine for while. In casting about today for some old writing to recycle (I spend the day working on websites and would like to go read now!) I came across this comment I made on a friend’s 2011 Facebook post. The discussion was about differences between men and women, but the point is more general that that.
Perhaps we need to distinguish between qualities we tend to have as men or women, and shaping those tendencies in a virtuous manner. I think on balance men tend to be born less soft-hearted than women. It could be that the path to godliness will require men to cultivate certain kinds of soft-heartedness, while women will need to toughen up in certain ways.
I have both the skills and the natural inclination to destroy my rhetorical opponents, and I used to employ them freely. At some point I understood that vanquishing someone who disagreed with me is hardly the same as persuading them, and in fact works against it.
It took awhile before I could put a higher value on edifying a brother than on exhibiting my superior knowledge. It took even longer to be able to act on that. I had to learn to shut up, listen, think more highly of my brother than myself, figure out the one thing I could say that might move his thinking forward, say it as kindly and irenically as possible, and leave him to think it over. A lot of natural inclinations needed to be choked back before I could do that!
This made my manner in discussions much softer, but not nearly as soft as it could be. In fact, I read what many women have to say online but rarely chime in because even though I’ve smoothed many of the rough edges off my writing, what’s left is still what a man has to say, written in a non-womanly manner, and it usually breaks the flow of discussion among women because it is jarring. I’ve joked with Cindy Rollins that whenever I comment on her blog I feel like a "thread killer", because mine is often the last comment in the thread. But I think the real reason is that my comments by their nature just break the mood.