"Big Four" Highlights


 

Grin and Bear It?

Bearing wrongs patiently does not rule out righteous anger or action

By Bill Dodds

“I just wanted to punch her in the nose.”

So said my granddaughter Kaitlyn. She was in the second grade when she came home from school and announced what she would have loved to do.

“Did you?” her mother asked.

“No.”

It seemed a classmate had been annoying when Kaitlyn and another classmate were reading a book together. Even if my granddaughter and her friend were giggling a bit (she admitted), how dare this other girl tell them what to do. It just wasn’t right!

It was a wrong that, despite the urge to punch someone in the nose, had to be borne patiently, though probably with a few words and steely glances.

No matter our age, no matter our circumstances, time and again, we’re wronged. And our awareness of that comes when we’re oh-so-small. “That’s not fair!” is a favorite of toddlers about whatever rubs them the wrong way.

How can we learn to bear wrongs patiently when wrongs are just – so wrong! And so annoying. That’s the case whether it’s a preschooler whose classmate isn’t letting anyone else play with the blocks or an adult who’s had to slam on the car brakes because another driver cut in front. Why doesn’t the selfish classmate or the thoughtless driver just not do that? Why does the person who was wronged have to be the one to suffer, to bear wrongs patiently?

We grandparents can’t predict the future, but we can be pretty certain there will be times when unfairness, when “wrongs,” will come crashing down on the heads of our dear, sweet grandchildren. Just as they did on our grandparents’ heads, and the heads of our grandparents’ grandparents. No doubt it’s been that way since Adam and Eve blamed one another for doing wrong.

So what’s my role, as a grandpa, in helping my grandkids brush off the minor wrongs, deal with the midsize ones, and work toward correcting the major ones? It would be great if I could just hand my grandchildren an age-appropriate pamphlet that addresses the issue, or point them to a helpful YouTube video, or download the “Bear Wrongs Patiently” phone app. But as with so many cases of helping the youngest generation learn something that really matters, personal example is the key. Actions speak louder than even apps. The young ones observe with perfect attention if we practice what we preach.

We may be great examples of bearing minor wrongs gracefully, and some may imagine themselves heroic while bearing patiently midsize wrongs. But what about those major wrongs we suffer at work, while driving, while figuring our taxes or when dealing with nosy or noisy neighbors? Those types of wrongs are harder to bear, and nearly impossible to bear patiently. So why bother? Because, as a spiritual work of mercy, there’s a spiritual value involved that isn’t always seen. But the word bear offers a clue.

We’re called to bear those wrongs just as we’re called to bear our daily crosses. And sometimes a wrong is the particular cross we’re supposed to shoulder, and then soldier on. But we don’t need to be passive, or approve of the wrong done to us. That would be wrong as well, and a bad example for youngsters. We can bear wrongs patiently, yet also act against them. Think of Jesus and his righteous zeal while cleansing the temple of merchants and money changers.

Two examples come to mind of when we should speak and act: discrimination or ill treatment based on race, and attacks on religious liberty. Those types of wrongs demand patience and perseverance coupled with prudent speech and effective action. We may even join with others to effect change and protect the innocent.

“Bear wrongs patiently” never means “be a doormat.” It never means to stay quiet and do nothing when we know others are being wronged. And it never means literally to punch someone in the nose. No matter how tempting.

Bill Dodds and his late wife, Monica, founded the Friends of St. John the Caregiver, an international Catholic organization that promotes care for family caregivers. His novels include Mildred Nudge: A Widower’s Tale and, for children, My Great-grandfather Turns 12 Today.