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Contempt or Kindness?

By Tracy Jessup

Gardner Webb

tracy jessup Gardner Webb contempt or kindness


“Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us, for we have had more than enough of contempt. Our soul has had more than its fill of the scorn of those who are at ease, of the contempt of the proud.” (Psalm 123:3-4)

Recently, my wife and I celebrated our 32nd wedding anniversary. Anytime someone asks us how long we have been married, they look shocked, as if marriages are not supposed to last that long. Psychologists John and Julie Gottman are renowned experts on marital stability and run The Gottman Institute, which is devoted to helping couples build and maintain loving, healthy relationships based on scientific studies. Simply by observing various interactions between couples, Gottman can predict with up to 94 percent certainty whether couples will be broken up, together and unhappy, or together and happy several years later. For the record, my wife and I are together and happy!

According to an article in The Atlantic, “contempt…is the No. 1 factor that tears couples apart. People who are focused on criticizing their partners miss a whopping 50 percent of positive things their partners are doing, and they see negativity when it’s not there. People who give their partner the cold shoulder – deliberately ignoring the partner or responding minimally – damage the relationship by making their partner feel worthless and invisible, as if they’re not there, not valued. And people who treat their partners with contempt and criticize them kill not only the love in the relationship but also their partner’s ability to fight off viruses and cancers. Being mean is the death knell of relationships.

Kindness, on the other hand, glues couples together. Research independent from theirs has shown that kindness (along with emotional stability) is the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in a marriage. Kindness makes each partner feel cared for, understood, and validated – loved…A great deal of evidence shows that the more someone receives or witnesses kindness, the more they will be kind themselves, which leads to upward spirals of love and generosity in a relationship” (Emily Esfahani Smith, “Masters of Love,” 6/12/14).

In today’s passage, the people of God have endured “more than enough” of the contempt and scorn of people who couldn’t care less. How do God’s people respond? They turn their eyes to the kindness of God. “Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us” (v. 3). The repetition of this phrase expresses both the magnitude and seriousness of the situation, as well as the mindset of God’s people as we wait in dependence on God to intervene.

In this Psalm, “where real power and real malice are pitched against a righteous cause, the people of God know what to do. They keep patiently on with the task before them; but even more important, they look constantly in prayer to the One who alone is both pledged to uphold the right and able to frustrate the wrong” (Michael Wilcock, The Message of Psalms 73-150, p. 228).

Prayer:  Lord, we thank you that you look upon us with eyes of mercy. In a world full of contempt, help us to show kindness to others.


Dr. Tracy Jessup serves as vice president for Christian Life and Service and senior minister to the University. He is a graduate of Gardner-Webb with a B.A. in Music and earned his M. Div. degree at Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School. He completed his Ph.D. at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He also teaches in the undergraduate department of religious studies and enjoys the opportunity to serve the local church through interim pastorates, pulpit supply, and preaching revival services. he and his wife, Teresa, have two children, Christian and Anna.

Read more Good Christian News from Dr. Jessup HERE.