Feel My Pain

Carl Trueman writes with poignancy and verve. His essays on Reformation21 are always must-reads. His latest one on whining is no exception. You’ll need to read the whole thing, but here’s the conclusion:

‘Expressions of hurt are too often really something else: cowardly attempts by representatives of a cosseted and self-obsessed culture to make themselves uniquely important or, worse still, to bully and cajole somebody they dislike to stop saying things they don’t want to hear or which they find distasteful.   My advice to such is akin to that of the counselor in the Bob Newhart sketch: Stop it!  If somebody’s writing or speaking hurts you, ask yourself “Why?”, don’t whine about the discomfort. Get a grip, get yourself some trousers, stop feeling sorry for yourself, and please, please, please, don’t hide behind the aesthetic pietisms of the tiresome and clichéd `feel my pain while I process my hurt’ posse.  Have the backbone, have the decency – nay, have the honesty – to take your licks and move on, either to addressing the substance of the argument or to some area of endeavour that is, well, perhaps less painful and hurtful for you.’

7 Responses to Feel My Pain

  1. Matthew Staton July 9, 2009 at 8:25 am #

    I would like to weigh in in favor of gentleness and respect.

    Reading between the lines, it sounds as if perahaps some took offense at a recent article and his response seems to be “suck it up or go away – we are talking facts and your personal feelings don’t count.” This may not the case – it just struck me that way.

    Context matters and I do not live in his context nor do I know the content of the letters he has received. And of course logic and truth stand, cold and heedless of any person’s individual weaknesses or hurts. But as ambassadors of Christ (2 Cor 5:20) we are not primarily soldiers of truth who smash the opposition. I invoke the image of a healing, gentle touch that refuses to quench the smoking flax or break the bruised reed.

    Some NT passages that relate to handling others with gentleness:

    James 5:13 Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone in good spirits? He should sing praises. (this one is more oblique than the others but I use to show James showing concern for others as opposed to “get over it, whiner”)

    Romans 12:15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 12:16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty but associate with the lowly

    Comments in Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Timothy, and 1 Peter have gentleness as a prize – it is the fruit of the Spirit, we should be completely humble and gentle, our gentleness should be evident to all, we should be clothed in it, given to it, pursue it.
    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=gal%205:23,%20eph%204:2,%20phil%204:5,%20col%203:12,%201%20tim%203:3,%201%20tim%206:11,%201%20pet%203:15&version=31

    1 Pet 3:15 says to give outsiders an answer with gentleness and respect.

  2. Brian Krieger July 9, 2009 at 9:55 am #

    Matthew:

    I understand what you are saying, though I took it a bit different. To me, he aims it rightly at much of current day church thinking. And, specifically, how offensive it is for anyone to claim having truth over someone else (see the Scottish agnostic bishop or the Dutch atheist pastor or Shelby Spong or…), thus (to paraphrase Carl), your statement of a position is not a position but merely a veiled attempt to insult me. We glory in pluralism and shun any absolute. I read:

    Thin-skins, absurd senses of entitlement and a bizarre conviction that all criticism of ideas is really a personally intended affront to those who hold them are not the exclusive preserve of any one theological party.

    And it reminded me of R. Kent Hughes’ book Disciplines of a Godly Man. Hughes says something to the effect of “leaders better be able to digest depression because they will eat a lot of it”.

  3. Brian Krieger July 9, 2009 at 9:57 am #

    BTW, I enjoy reading Trueman if for the simple fact that he makes me go and look up words like salubrious. A word I’m sure everyone else here knew, but I didn’t.

  4. Scott July 9, 2009 at 10:48 am #

    I tend to agree with Matthew’s comments in the first post. Trueman is an incredibly gifted writer, but I wonder why so many of his articles are polemically charged. He comes across as a cosmic killjoy!

  5. Nathan July 10, 2009 at 7:54 am #

    Scott,

    I think you are playing right into Carl’s hand and making his point. If you find his articles not to your liking, then don’t read him anymore. I took his point about the woman who wrote him saying he personally attacked her (even though he did not know her) to be spot on.

    If he is not being heretical, then why is it anyone else’s job to be his editor? Having said that, it is fine to say we don’t agree with him, but we cannot fall into the trap of taking other’s comments personally. At least, that was the theme I took after reading the article.

  6. Scott July 10, 2009 at 8:56 am #

    Nathan,

    Good points!

    I’ve never been offended by Trueman, or taken any of his words personally.

    My point was that many of Trueman’s articles are forcefully antagonistic. Of course, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. However, many of those articles are based on sweeping generalizations that can, if perceived incorrectly by his readers, offend a good deal of people.

    I’m by no means Trueman’s auditor! But, I think it comes across as condescending to assume that he’s irresponsible for his actions; i.e. it’s the other person’s problem for being hurt, “Jesus wasn’t a sissy,” etc.

  7. Nathan July 13, 2009 at 9:08 am #

    Scott,

    Agree with your points as well. I guess that middle ground is difficult to find. It would seem that columnists or bloggers naturally need both people who agree and disagree with them in order to have a true following.

    Or at least to give us (the responders) something to vent about.

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