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Do you treat contempt with contempt?

In Chapter 8 of 'Introduction to the Jesus life', Jan Johnson looks at the issue of contempt.  I think she addresses it with great insight and if we understood contempt for what it really is and begin to deal with it, we would make great leaps forward in our Christlikeness.

How many times have you said or observed about yourself or others - they lost it, they snapped, that particular behaviour just wasn't them?  We often regard these moments of anger, violence, verbal abuse, abruptness as something that just comes over people.  The problem is that Jesus teaching is "for out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks" (Luke 6:45).  So the opposite way of looking at these moments are that they are moments when we haven't been able to filter what is coming from inside of us.

Jan says 'spur-of-the-moment' anger that seizes us - usually because we're surprised - is typically fed from a pool of underlying contempt.  Most people are unaware that they have fed this pool for years and that it affects so much of their life.'

She goes on to define contempt:

Contempt is studied anger.  It percolates from the brooding that occurs when doing otherwise normal things such as mowing the lawn or vacuuming.  In these moments, the mind drifts to how we've been mistreated.  When contempt is a routine thought pattern, it seeps into all of life as chronic grumbling and even bitterness.  At the drop of a hat, hostility emerges ("That stupid bus driver") (p110)

She then comments on how contempt can be observed in sarcasm, name-calling, forceful speech that gets louder and more harsh, cynicism, and rejection of authority.  It can more subtly show up in perfectionism, playing the victim and procrastination.  Jan confessed to years of struggling to be kind to telemarketers!

I think she is right in her assessment that our socitey now regards contempt as acceptable - reference talkback radio.  But I was most challenged by her observation that 'Perhaps the most culturally acceptable form of contempt is the pet peeve.  Think about it: we choose to dislike and discredit certain people we don't know and have never met because of one small thing they do that we find annoying.  These people are then exempt from the 'love clause' in Scripture - the Great Commandment; they're people we don't have to love."

What are the pet peeves that we need to give up?

Should we practice our pet peeves when watching football?

What would our lives be like if they were free of pet peeves, and other forms of contempt?

Do we really want that?

If we do, there are resources of grace and love available to us in the Kingdom of God by trusting Jesus.

David Wanstall, 26/08/2009