With emotion in his voice, my friend told me a story of one of his mentors–a science professor. One day, this man’s office was drenched because a negligent student left the water on. Sloshing around in an inch of water, trying to salvage his sodden papers, he gently said, “I think it’s time to get this problem fixed.” No rage. No complaining. Deliberate calm.

When you react calmly to things that make most people stomp and yell–people notice. And they may remember the scene for years. You’ll convict them without words, and inspire them to practice self-control, patience, and gentleness.

It’s so countercultural and counterintuitive–both of which tell us, “You’d better raise cain.” “Only the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” “If you act like a doormat, people will walk all over you.”

Yet the ancients tell us, “A gentle answer turns away wrath.” And “A fool gives full vent to his anger but a wise man keeps himself under control.”

You’d think this would grow easier with age. But I’m finding it more difficult with every birthday. My expectations for How Things Ought to Be and Now I’ve Earned the Right to Be Listened To are going up with each year notched on my belt. How do I wrestle my growing sense of entitlement into a humility that transcends?

Only by looking to Jesus Christ. This guy has the greatest claim to respect in the history of the universe, yet he was stripped naked, tortured, and killed. The whole time he refused to lecture. He was silent. But not completely silent–when he finally said something, He prayed for the people who were abusing him: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

This doesn’t preclude activism. It’s not passive. It’s not weak. It’s power under control–and history has shown us over and over again that the ancients have it right.