“We must love with aggressive tenderness.” Pope Francis
An amazing, dynamic man named Justin Fatica quoted those words to a gymnasium full of high school students the other night and I just can’t get them out of my head. It’s hard to even imagine what that would look like isn’t it! It makes “do unto others” seem a little weak in comparison. As I’ve let these words tumble around in my head I’ve been wondering what aggressive tenderness might look like. He told the crowd that the only way we were going to heal the ills of the world was to love each other with aggressive tenderness.
It all became a little clearer today when I opened the Children’s Bible to the next story and read from it as I do at the beginning of every religion lesson in first grade. The story I opened to was about Jesus washing the feet of His Apostles. That was aggressive tenderness. When we talked about the kind of shoes they wore and how there were no sidewalks or grass to walk on the little lovelies began to realize it wasn’t simply a foot rinse…that kind of dirty feet must have taken some scrubbing. Aggressive tenderness is bigger than giving away old clothes and donating a few boxes of cereal to the food pantry. I think becoming a person who loves in this way will take a lot of reflection and change. We are so quick to judge and then apply kindness and tenderness according to our judgment.
I think the aggressive part means we have to want to love like this and be willing to work hard and tackle our attitudes and make a change. When I think of the word tenderness I think the way we treat a newborn. I remember my kids as babies and I would just watch them sleep in amazement and delight. I didn’t love them less if they smelled bad, couldn’t hold an intelligent conversation or do anything to help me; I just loved them…because and no matter what. Is it possible to love others like that? Mother Teresa did it, Pope Francis does it, and maybe we just think we can’t…but what if we tried a little harder?
If we really did love others with aggressive tenderness what would we have to lose? Our reputation; yeah, wouldn’t you just hate to be thought of as a …nice person! Our relationships; what would that conversation sound like, “Gee, I just don’t want to spend so much time with you anymore, you are just too loving and patient and you’re always making others feel valued, I’m just not comfortable with all that.” Our time; are you kidding me, if we traded in all the minutes we spend judging people, talking about people and complaining about stuff people do that bothers us, we could have way too much time on our hands. Our eternal life; seriously…loving others with aggressive tenderness is exactly the way we can spend our days in the glory of eternal life…who wants that…oh wait I do…YIKES! Kind of makes the excuses sound pretty lame doesn’t it!
Sometimes the best way to do something hard is to imagine what things would be like if we already did it. If we did it, suicide and substance abuse rates would plummet. If we did it, the world would be filled with people who realized they were amazing because they were “faithfully and wonderfully made” which would lead to contentment, love, joy, peace and more aggressive tenderness. If we did it, we would be surrounded by people who see and value others as God’s children and not as rich, poor, beautiful, ugly, smart, dumb, valuable or worthless. Aggressive tenderness allows us to look through the eyes of Christ. That sounds pretty amazing to me! Aggressive tenderness…who’s with me?
A Seed To Plant: Every journey begins with a small step in the right direction. What is the first thing you’re gonna do to start loving with aggressive tenderness? I’d love to hear your ideas if you’d like to share.
Blessings on your day!
Copyright 2014 Sheri Wohlfert
About the Author
Sheri is a Catholic wife, mom, speaker and teacher. She uses her great sense of humor and her deep faith to help others discover the joy of being a child of God. Her roots are in Kansas but her home is in Michigan. The mission of her ministry is to encourage others to look at the simple ways we can all find God doing amazing things smack dab in the middle of the laundry, ball games, farm chores and the hundred other things we manage to cram into a day. Sheri also writes at JoyfulWords.org.