By Nancy Hoag
My husband is both a gentleman and a gentle man who puts the needs of others before his own. But his calming kindness with me and with our children—as well as with our friends and neighbors—does not mean Scotty suffers from a weakness. Nor does it suggest he’s at a disadvantage when it comes to doing business. From his beginnings as a ranch kid and cowboy to a State Director’s position, he gained a reputation for being plainspoken, patient, and kind. He jokes that this is because he’s a better listener than talker. Still, in our 41-year marriage I’ve observed how he works, and daily I try to be more like him and less like me. I also remind myself that reflections are only possible when the waters are calm . . . and deep.
Eight months ago we’d no sooner begun to unpack in a newly constructed home when we discovered six warped cabinet doors. Three of those doors would never, without a professional’s skilled adjustment, be meeting in the middle. The vent fan in our master bath wouldn’t close which, mid-winter, had become a chilling problem. In addition, the furnace had begun to emit disturbing noises, so Scotty dropped down into the crawl space (not easy for a man who’s 6 foot 2 inches) and discovered a pool of water and a breeding ground for mosquito larvae!
Within weeks I was pleading, “Please call a realtor! Call the Better Business Bureau too!” I had also discovered a website where we could report contractors who had not done the work according to the buy-sell agreement. “I will never again trust another builder—not even one who calls himself a Christian!” I announced as I added up the numbers and wondered how long it would take us to sell. Furthermore, if we sold, where would we go? And what about sufficient energy to again pack and move?
But did Scotty feel the same? He did not. He wanted, instead, to believe the best about the young man who may have moved too quickly during construction and was now doing a disappointing job of following up. “He meant well though,” Scotty said, “so I’ll just make some calls.”
He did make calls: to an electrician, to the home heating people, and again to the builder. To my disappointment, he expressed no anger; he simply explained that there were issues needing to be addressed by more than one supplier. “There’s no point in becoming angry, Babe,” he said, as I paced, fretted, and voiced aloud my disappointment that he hadn’t done as my father might have done.
Except, hadn’t I grown up in a home where my father’s words were frequently harsh and where I could recall nothing having been done or said gently? Many nights I would lie awake fearing tomorrow. When tomorrow came, I’d leave for school, fearing the hour when it would be time for me to go back to the place where nothing would be right and everything would be wrong. My father cursed other drivers, barked at the kids I played with, and had few good words to say to or about anyone when he was in one of his moods.
Until the day when the call came: “He’s gone,” my sister said. My father had died of a heart attack that had begun at the kitchen table. The ambulance had delivered him to a hospital only blocks away; he died following an afternoon spent digging holes in 90 degrees under a scorching sun, because he was going to “show that clown next door!” With a fence between them, this neighbor would think twice before he’d do anything again that angered my father.
Gentle Answers & Pleasing Solutions
From my husband I have learned how to be calm and unruffled. I watched him direct no anger at the contractor or his crew, even when we’d been told numerous times how everyone understood and the work would become complete ASAP—but wasn’t. “They’re just trying to make a living,” Scotty said, “so we need to give them a break.”
“OK.” I nodded—although it wasn’t OK in my book. Still I supposed Scotty was right, even if I wouldn’t have been nearly so understanding. Actually I might have behaved more like my father’s daughter, which meant the others may have come sooner to make everything right, but would they have smiled or done a better job the second time around? Or would they have ignored me completely? Worse, would I have felt embarrassed when I ran into people on the street who would have then been angry with me?
Meanwhile, my husband held the ladder for one contractor, inched up into the attic to assist another, and descended into the crawl space with a third man overwhelmed with his too-long days and heavy workload. One subcontractor even shared with Scotty how he’d recently become a single father raising two children alone and was counting on friends to be there when he couldn’t be home.
I recalled the night I met Scotty so many years ago. I had been instantly taken with his gentleness. Not many weeks later, I was grateful for his gentle patience with my then 10-year-old daughter. Over the years, we’ve come up against serious—even expensive—problems with cars, trucks, our first fixer-upper, and neighbors who tested. But I’ve come to trust the calm stability in my husband.
In the meantime nearly every issue has been made right with the home in which we’re currently living. I did let off steam over a shrub that should have been replaced, but the developer announced he’d already been “generous enough given (our) home’s price point.” We’re still waiting on the woman who said she’d make our carpeting perform as promised. Because Scotty treats the young subcontractor with gentle words and kindness, I do believe the day will come when all will be well in this solid house with the shaky beginning.
Should I feel myself giving in to angry feelings, I will remember not only my husband’s gentle ways and my desire to be more like him and less like how I was raised, but I will also recall words written by author and pastor Max Lucado: “I choose gentleness . . . Nothing is won by force. I choose to be gentle. If I raise my voice, may it be only in praise. If I clench my fist, may it be only in prayer. If I make a demand, may it be only of myself.”
In addition, should any sense of impatience again begin to niggle—as it did the morning I was typing and Scotty popped in to ask about some charge on our American Express—I will remind myself that not only is my husband patient, kind, and gentle, but gentleness pleases God, and I will again choose to treat others as I would have them treat me. I will also tuck into my heart my husband’s pledge and quietly put God’s love into action—that I might not, as a result of any inherited anger, end up in an early grave.
Nancy Hoag is an author in Bozeman, Montana.