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The Assertive Jesus

 Dear Friends,

           I used to have the misconception that Jesus was placid, mild, and meek, a man who rarely spoke, who rarely got angry, and who would walk around being mysterious as to what He was thinking.  Basically, I am describing a passive Jesus.  Certainly, this kind of Jesus was reinforced in my thinking by the way that Jesus was portrayed in Hollywood films when I was a kid in movies such as “The King of Kings,” and by the way He looks in the mostly Caucasian version of His picture that hung on the walls of the churches I attended.

           This misconception motivated much of my behavior probably until I was in my late 20’s.  Because of this, I was also passive.  I was this way because this was my concept of Jesus and, since I was instructed to be like Christ and, wanted to be obedient and, therefore, like Him, I determined in myself to take on these assumed Christ-like characteristics.  I would walk around with a smile on my face even if I was miserable on the inside.  I would be nice even if I was angry.  Because of my misguided view of Jesus I was a fake, and out of touch with my true feelings and true self. 

          The scariest part is that I was so disconnected from myself that I didn’t know it.  As you can imagine, this gave tremendous power to other people in my life as I tried my best to people please and to become what someone else needed or wanted me to be.  Since I didn’t know myself, I would look to others to tell me who I was.  My self-image was horrible, my self-esteem was very low, my self –concept was one of a person of little worth.  I would act in ways that were self-disrespecting and allow others to do this to me also.  This made me depressed and sometimes so seriously so,  that at least on one occasion, I got to the point that I thought seriously of taking my own life. 

 All the while, I was trying desperately to live what I thought was the Christian life and to please God by becoming what I thought He wanted of me.  On the outside I looked happy, and family and friends would heap praise upon me for living on the outside what appeared to be the perfect Christian life.  One friend remarked to my mother that I was the only true Christian he knew.  I became the president of my high school youth group and was even asked to speak in front of the congregation when I was 16.

 It wasn’t until I learned about the assertive Jesus that I broke free from this bondage.  Mostly, I learned about Him being assertive in seminary in both my theology and psychology classes (I was taking both because my degree was in Counseling Psychology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School).  I learned of Jesus getting angry and about Him talking nasty to the Pharisees.  I learned about Him saying no to the crowds so that He could take a nap and I learned about the Jesus that said no to the rich young ruler.  I learned of the Jesus who would take care of Himself by going away from everyone to spend time alone with His Father. 

 I learned about a continuum that taught me that assertiveness was the place of balance and health.  And it made sense to me that if Jesus was God that He would have to be infinitely healthy and balanced in the way He lived and who He was, and that, therefore, He would be the best example of a person who is assertive.  The continuum looks like this:

                        

                                  The point of balance

ß-----------------------------------------------------------------------à

                                                

Passive                              Assertive                           Aggressive

 

I determined to set myself on a course where I would become less passive and more assertive.  This meant I would have to speak up when I had something to say and that my yes would have to mean yes and my no would have to mean no, even if this meant the people I cared about would be disappointed or frustrated with me.  This also meant that I would need to erect more healthy boundaries around me to protect myself from those that wanted to take advantage of me.

 As I did these things, my spirits were raised and I became happier with myself.  My self-respect returned and I felt the freedom to have the choice of healthy options for myself.  I was thrilled to know that by doing this I was actually obeying God more, not less.  As it turned out, this is what He wanted for me and from me all along.

 

                          Still learning to be assertive,

 

                          Paul