Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted. Ephesians 4:32
Paul closed Ephesians 4, a powerful chapter, with another appeal regarding how we are to treat one another. The word “tenderhearted” means to be compassionate, have pity, and be sympathetic. It is a wonderful word, and practicing tenderheartedness makes a huge difference in a family. What does it look like to be tenderhearted to those in our families?
Love family members in spite of their faults. Every member of our families has faults. I know that catches some readers by surprise! “Reeeeaaaally?” I can hear somebody say. “No way!” Unfortunately, we all have faults. How we respond to those faults will determine whether or not we have happy homes.
Many of us fail in this area because we allow others’ faults to irritate us. For instance, if a wife is late, some husbands end up with blood-pressure problems. If a husband forgets to call home because he is working overtime, it can ruin a wife’s entire week. A fault can even ruin a wonderful vacation! However, instead of allowing faults to irritate us, we should turn them into endearments. When a wife turns her husband’s failure to report his late work shift into a reason for love instead of a source of irritation, she is being tenderhearted. Rather than fuss about the failure, she can instead love the fact that her husband is a hard worker and great provider. When a husband turns his wife’s indecision into a reason for love, the question “Where do you want to eat, honey?” no longer becomes a destructive force in a family outing but rather an opportunity to love how devoted she is to her husband and children.
We must love our families unconditionally and never allow their faults to be a source of annoyance. When we find ourselves rolling our eyes and sighing about the faults of our spouses, we are in danger of doing great damage to the marriage. When we begin telling others about the faults of our children, we hurt our children, and we also hurt our relationships with them. Obviously we should correct and train our children. But we should do it with tenderheartedness and unconditional love.
Some months ago I was on a plane, and when we landed an older man urged his wife to grab her stuff and get off the plane right away. She tried, but with her purse and her cane and her age, she moved too slowly for him. He basically threw up his hands and ordered her to deplane whenever she could and left her there. I thought we should take her cane and hit him pretty hard with it! However, this woman smiled at us and told us how much she loved her husband, even when he was impatient. It was a powerful lesson of what tenderheartedness looks like. I want to be that kind of person.
Love family members in spite of their failures. We are to love our family members in spite of not just their faults but also their failures. A fault may be a personality quirk, or simply the result of the way someone was raised, or even a matter of perception on our part because we were trained by our parents to do things differently. A failure, on the other hand, is when someone truly does wrong—when a family member fails to treat us with kindness, for instance. Such failure typically causes us to react in disgust and defensiveness. If the failure continues, we often justify negative responses on our part as something the other person deserves and something we are entitled to give. Tenderheartedness, alternatively, turns from disgust and defensiveness to loyalty. It turns negative responses and situations into opportunities for showing loyalty and care.
Consider how our Savior Jesus Christ continually shows tenderheartedness toward us and our faults and failures: He “hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows. . . was wounded for our transgressions, [and] was bruised for our iniquities” (Isa. 53:4–5). Jesus did not excuse our failures, and He did not downplay them, but He bore them in his own body on the cross because He loves us unconditionally. That is tenderheartedness. We must never allow our family members’ issues to damage us and our relationship with them. Instead, we should respond in every situation with compassion and pity and sympathy, in love and peace and loyalty. God’s Word on this is true, and it will immensely help our families to be happy ones!
- What faults do you have that can be a source of irritation to your spouse, children, or parents?
- What faults are evidenced in your family members that have been a source of irritation to you?
- What steps will you take (by God’s help) to make these matters better?
This chapter is taken from our book “Home Improvement- Keys To Building A Happy Home“. Click on the link to learn more about this book.