THE WISDOM OF GENTLENESS - The Warrior's Journey®


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The Army refers to it as MOUT. This stands for Military Operations in Urban Terrain. MOUT entails house to house fighting, breaching doors, and the “surgical” clearing of rooms. It is the least desirable and most dangerous task soldiers are called upon to execute.

Why are urban operations so dangerous? The reasons are numerous. For one thing, doorways constitute “choke points” which only allow one soldier through at a time, making it easier for an enemy to kill them. Another reason is that a building may contain a mix of combatants and non-combatants. Children may be present with an insurgent. Therefore, soldiers cannot merely toss a fragmentation grenade into a room or building to clear it. They must enter the room and look at what they are targeting. Plus the insurgent has the advantage of cover. He can fire from behind a wall. All of these aspects make “surgical room clearing” a very dangerous game.

One other aspect that makes urban warfare so dangerous is that the enemy can plant an assortment of booby traps and bombs within a building. If the enemy uses trip wires to detonate bombs, he doesn’t even have to be present to kill the soldier. A rushing soldier will hit a trip wire without realizing it and get himself and his fellow soldiers killed. Throughout Operation Iraqi Freedom, such booby traps took a heavy toll on US soldiers.

But soldiers came up with a simple but ingenious method of neutralizing trip-wired bombs: Silly String. That’s right. Armed with a can of Silly String, a soldier can spray a skinny, 12-foot-long stream of foam into a booby-trapped room. If there are any tripwires present, the Silly String will hang in midair, suspended by the tripwire. This method became so effective in exposing trip wires, that one concerned mom, Marcelle Shriver, launched a campaign in 2007 to get 120,000 cans of Silly String into the hands of her son and all his fellow soldiers in Iraq.

The magic of the Silly String was in its “gentle touch.”  It was light enough and gentle enough to dangle on the tripwire – exposing it without triggering the bomb it was connected to.

You know, we don’t have to be combat soldiers to come up against hidden explosives. Sometimes just going about our daily interaction with life’s hurting people can be like clearing a booby-trapped room. Some people carry so much pain in their hearts that a simple careless or thoughtless word can “set them off.”  We might get away with just a scolding. But the angry outburst could prove catastrophic. For common courtesy and kindness are displayed less and less in society, while the pain level in people rises more and more. Therefore, it’s increasingly likely for acts of violence to occur.

But there is a profound and wise lesson in the gentleness of Silly String. It demonstrates that the gentle touch might prevent disaster. In a similar way showing kindness, respect, and courtesy to all people will neutralize and defuse angry outbursts and ticking time bombs.

The Bible speaks about the power of kind deeds and words in preventing calamity. For instance, in Proverbs 15:1 Solomon wrote, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but harsh words only stir up anger.”

Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, should have heeded this word. A weary and angry Israel told him they would serve him as their king only if he “lightened up” the load (1 Kings 12:1-24). The wise elders cautioned him that a little kindness would go a long way. They advised Rehoboam to “speak kindly” to the Israelites and “they will be your servants forever.”

But Rehoboam viewed kindness as a sign of weakness. So, he spoke harshly to his subjects and tried to frighten them into submission. The result was disastrous. With his one heavy-handed response, he lost more than three quarters of his kingdom. Ten of the Twelve Tribes of Israel rebelled against him and he was completely helpless to subdue and unite them again.

Friend, if you despise gentleness and seem to thrive on conflict, then you’re bound for a difficult journey. You’ll be like the soldier storming through a series of tripwires and you’re going to get hurt. There are simply too many hurting and angry people out there. And you haven’t the skill to safely negotiate your way through them.

But the kind and gentle person will survive. “Blessed are the gentle,” Jesus said. “For they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).


PRAYER:   Dear Father in heaven, please make me an instrument of Your peace and healing in the lives of others. Fill my heart with Your love and help me to disarm the rage in peoples’ hearts by showing kindness, respect, and gentleness. In Jesus’ name, Amen.


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