And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient. – 2 Timothy 2:24
“This is not a complaint; it is just a formal suggestion.” I will never forget those words. Years ago, my business had a contract to clean an attorney’s office on a weekly basis. Like most businesses, it was never pleasant to have a client offer a complaint about our services. One night when I walked into the office, there was a note on the desk marked, “To the Janitor.” Surprisingly, the note read, “This is not a complaint; it is just a formal suggestion,” and went on to describe some detail in our service that had been overlooked. Relieved that our client was not angry, we immediately took care of the problem and things went back to normal.
On a recent occasion, my wife and I went to a restaurant with another couple and the clam chowder we were served was less than hot. As we were leaving, the manager asked about our meal, and my friends commented on the chowder being warm. The manager said, “I’ll take care of that,” and headed toward the kitchen. I followed him and told him to go easy on the young cooks, and asked him to let me handle it.
After relating to them my business story and the formal suggestion from my client, they were thrilled with my “formal suggestion” about keeping the soup hot. You would have thought I was king for the day! They responded, “No one ever approached us that way. We want to learn.”
The relief and gladness of the cooks was not a surprise. Probably all of us have been reprimanded for a mistake in the past, and we know how easily such situations can become negative. However, as Christians, we want others to view their encounters with us as positive. An action as simple and practical as making a “suggestion” instead of a complaint can leave a lasting impression on someone, because that gentleness reflects directly upon Christ. We can turn a typically bad situation into an opportunity to demonstrate the beauty of the Gospel.
When our Lord walked the earth, He was the master of human relations. He made no complaints; He spoke only words of life, edifying and ministering grace to the hearers. May we also be gentle unto all men, abandoning complaints for kind “suggestions.”