Last week our pastor spoke on the topic of cultivating kindness.
The sermon on February 4th was on cultivating patience. Christian or not, churchgoing or not, I think most people would agree that we could all use not only a reminder that we need to improve in the areas of kindness and patience, but I think we all need instructions on these character traits. Our need goes deeper than our casual desire to execute. A friend told me she didn’t think she needed a lesson in that area. She might have been confusing being nice with being kind. I’ve told my kids many times: Being nice isn’t the same as being kind. Being nice isn’t a character trait, but kindness is.
I love it when I get a recipe for anything. It makes it easer for me to put on my To Do list and get it done. Whether it’s a new 4 ingredient shortbread cookie recipe that my friend recently shared with me or simple steps in showing kindness, I appreciate the instruction that will produce something tangible.
I understand that treating people with kindness and patience doesn’t seem like something that would produce tangible results, but there are a lot of dark clouds that might be cleared out and heavy hearts that might lighten if we can apply some basic steps in showing kindness.
Our pastor Randy referred to two books he’d read in a recent sermon. He doesn’t do that very often, but I so appreciated him letting us in on his resources. One is called Love Kindness and one is called The Kindness Challenge. Pastor Randy also referred to the other book; the Holy Bible. I like to put the word “Holy” in front of bible. It reminds me that it’s not just another book with opinions, but it’s holy and I am to respect and revere its contents.
Even without the bible references, The Kindness Challenge will work for those who desire better results with others, and within themselves. Shaunti Feldhahn tells us that kindness is a Super Power. A Super Power. Zap! The people with whom we want better experiences just need kindness exercised on them and like that, they are different, and we are different!
The claim Shaunti makes sounds almost absurd. She could have made a whole lot of claims that would satisfy our desires for improved relationships, but she takes it to a whole different level to call kindness a Super Power. To make that claim, I wanted to know what I had to do to get that power; the power to change relationships. Not that I have a lot of relationships to change. But even one relationship transcending to good is worth accessing a Super Power. Don’t we all have one?
I do have at least one where I know I’m not my best self. I’ve been told I’m kind, but really when I think about it, I think I’m more compassionate than I am kind. I’m compassionate to people who suffer. I’m compassionate to people in third world countries and the homeless or the underserved. I have a lot of compassion for single moms, widows and orphans. I’m compassionate to those who are good to me. But kindness extends itself beyond those. Kindness is for everyone, regardless of a category in which we can place them. Oh, I’m sure we can find a category that justifies being unkind. But Shaunti tells us that there is no category that defies the benefits of kindness. I have quite a list that could justify being unkind. I can be impatient with people and intolerant of their shortcomings. I may not say it (that’s being nice), but my spirit feels it. Shaunti doesn’t believe that we pour on the nice syrup just to gloss over others’ shortcomings, anger issues, imperfections, etc. But she does believe that when we sincerely attempt three steps, it will usually change people, and it will always change us.
I owe the Comcast crew some nice syrup. They’re not the only ones. I’m not going to offer up a list on this blog, but I’ve already begun some attitude adjustments. It’s early, so I’m not going to claim any differences in my “victims,” but I feel a bit lighter and better for trying.
So, Shaunti’s recipe:
- Focus on the positive; negate the negative.
- Focus on what IS good, avoid what isn’t.
- Praise is the catalyst of kindness.
- Act in faith, not by feelings.
- Act on the kindness.
- Do something sincerely good for your “victim.”
I’m using the term victim; Shaunti isn’t. But when I think of how it feels to be on the receiving end of an unkind person, it feels victimish. The victim suffers to some degree when they (we?) are a recipient of unkindness. Whether it’s a slight on Facebook or a deserved reprimand because we’ve been passed around to twenty people and on hold for an hour, the ugliness is ugly and the victim feels icky. And to be honest, as righteous as I might feel when I’m the deliverer, it can take awhile before that dark cloud above me vaporizes and I’m whistling a tune again, not to mention praising God for his goodness.
The three ingredients for a kindness revolution look simplistic. I think possibly the hardest thing God asks of us is to love your neighbor as yourself and to do unto others as we would have others do unto us. He puts us to the test of loving those with whom we don’t like, those who are different from us, those who anger us, and so on. The Ten Commandments seems easier at times than loving someone who has hurt us or someone who hurts others!
So yes, the three ingredients is simplistic. We need more help and instruction than reading these three simple ingredients. We need to know how to put these things together and whip up some kindness in our world. And for that, I think you you’ll need to buy the book. If you graduate from that, you might want to take part in the Kindness Challenge. Take that relationship with which you’re struggling, apply your new Super Power to it, and watch magic happen.
Note: I’m sorry I didn’t provide the Amazon links for the books. I just can’t bring myself to do that to the other books suppliers who deserve your money, too!