Dear Henri, When Kindness Is The Thing – Week 16, Day 3

Blue like jazz pope 615 roadside

Marshall Allman as Donald Miller (r.) and Justin Welborn as The Pope (l.) in 'Blue Like Jazz'

Dear Henri,

“…I want my spirituality to rid me of hate, not give me reason for it.” -Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz

That kind of sums up a lot of this journey/garden/thin place/road/life thing with Jesus for me. I don't just want to be loving; I want to be kind. And the kindness part sometimes is more elusive than the love part. 

Oh sure, I can have loving intentions and can act on those intentions believing that the most loving thing I could do is the course of action I choose for another person.

Are you following me?

Let me give you a couple of examples: 1) in some evangelical traditions, the most loving thing I could do for another person is to warn them of their sinful nature, explain the reality of eternal conscious torment (hell), and point the way to Jesus. Sometimes I can share that message loudly and rudely, but other times I could share this message gently and with sincerity; 2) I could claim to lead a life of kindness, no matter my faith tradition, but as soon as someone screws up in my estimation, we're done. That's it. I waste no more time on them because I am the most important person in the universe to take care of. Jerks don't get a second chance.

In the first example, I'm assuming I know what's best for the other person. Instead of getting to know the other person for the sake of actually desiring the other person's presence, I make contact because I'm concerned for their immortal soul. I struggle with the actual love factor here, which makes the kindness factor hard. You see, I've met a lot of turn-or-burn preachers/church-goers and it's easy to veer away from them. But when someone who says the same thing appears genuinely kind and sincere… what to do? 

Cognitive dissonance.

Something doesn't add up.

In the second example… and I guess I'm struggling with this one more today… it's so easy to claim we're kind until someone jilts us. Grudge justified, partnership dissolved, boycott created, AND we suddenly have psychic insider information to the offender's intentions. No sir, we are not kind. We smile sweetly at people uptown or make nice at the grocery store, but behind people's backs we look out for ourselves first and trash-talk folks' characters, reputations and choices.

It's not like I haven't done it. It gives me a tiny bit of power when I declare someone to be mean, dysfunctional, untrustworthy, lacking in integrity, or any reason why others should have little to do with them anymore. The inevitable end result, sadly, isn't self-actualization or peace of mind but rather a rep for cruelity rather than kindness.

It's hard to live beside too. 

When people connect or make partnerships or develop relationships, personally or professionally, and then feel that 'The Other' has somehow broken faith with them, they are vocal in their disappointment. We turn it upside down to show how intuitive we were about these con artists all along, cut cords, stop communication.

Instead of dealing with the problem (everyone's secret fear), people try to look wise in their own eyes by shutting out The Other. The excuse? The Other "should have known" how to treat us, how to live alongside us in good faith, or how to be a decent human being. And when this passive-aggressive behaviour repeats itself in our lives again and again, the rest of the world sees blatantly how morally superior we think we are — kindness on the surface, just once chance before you inevitably screw up beneath.

I want more.

I need to be more.

There's got to be a better way.

Sure, there are times and places when we know people are untrustworthy and we need to stay far away from them. Abuse victims need the support when they put their lives back together without the presence of their abuser.

But it's only a dog-eat-dog world of we choose it to be.

"Kindness is a beautiful human attribute. When we say, “She is a kind person” or “He surely was kind to me,” we express a very warm feeling. In our competitive and often violent world, kindness is not the most frequent response. But when we encounter it we know that we are blessed. Is it possible to grow in kindness, to become a kind person? Yes, but it requires discipline. To be kind means to treat another person as your “kin,” your intimate relative. We say, “We are kin” or “He is next of kin.” To be kind is to reach out to someone as being of “kindred” spirit." -Henri Nouwen

Kindness is a discipline.

It's a daily choice from the core of who we are which transforms the core of who we are. I can only look to myself, but my sense is that others feel the same as I do: it's a worthy pursuit to be truly kind, but honestly? I'm first.

Me first.

My work first.

My family first.

My life first.

You do me bad? I cut you off. Simple.

Be nice to me and I'll be nice to you.

It's one of the greatest lies Jesus snapped apart, but we still insist on living as we do.

I want my spirituality to rid me of hate, not give me reason for it.

It's all too easy to be "bitten once, twice shy" with folks. But we're all imperfect, broken folks. If we refuse a life of kindness, we'll eat each other alive. I saw that today. I see it everyday. I see it in others. I see it in me.

That's all for now. Until next time,
Love,

Erin

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