“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11
“First, do no harm.” You hear these words a lot in TV hospital dramas as part of the Hippocratic Oath that doctors take. While those words are not directly used in the oath, the concept is definitely there. Of course a doctor’s goal is to do no harm. They want to fix what is going on and set the body on its way to healing. That may mean trying new methods or doing something risky, but not at the expense of the patient. At least that is how I would think it works outside of TV.
I have no idea why that phrase popped into my head while I was cooking dinner tonight. I was tearing up lettuce for a salad (that counts as cooking, right?) and said the words, “First, do no harm.” Random. But then I started thinking, “What if we applied that to all relationships? What if that was our motto to every person that we encountered?” The reality is that we are going to see something that needs fixing in everyone. There is going to be something that rubs us the wrong way, or annoys us, or of which we can only take small doses. (This is totally different from addressing sin in some one’s life who has given us that close relationship. This is just personality stuff.) What if, before we started picking them apart, we said to ourselves, “first, do no harm.”
I think it would make a big difference. You see, the reality when it comes to different personalities is that something that annoys you or bugs you about someone isn’t their problem at all. It’s yours. You have to make the choice to love regardless and to do no harm. Love is not self-seeking, after all. When we start picking people apart for their personality, all we are doing is harming them. It evokes shame and a lack of self-worth.
I think this truth hits so close to home for me because I recently experienced it. I have definitely been on the side of picking apart, but this time I was picked on. I could never measure up, could never say the right thing, could never act the right way for this person. I have never cared too much about what people think, but this was someone I considered a friend picking me to pieces. I started to feel shame. I felt worthless, useless, and it was taking it’s toll on me. The harm was done. Fortunately I have some really great friends and family members who helped me to take a look at what was really going on. It was extremely eye-opening. I was hurt, but it was such a good lesson for me. I am choosing to first do no harm. If I can take that moment to pause, to choose not to harm, then I can really figure out whose problem it is.
There is a verse in Hebrews that sums this up nicely. It’s a call to encourage one another daily. When you feel the need to pick apart, choose not to do harm. Choose to encourage. The author of Hebrews says that when we choose that, then we won’t be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. Here is the verse:
“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Hebrews 3:13