When We Choose Not To Be Kind

Sometimes we know better but we choose to do it anyway.  We choose to be mean over loving.  We choose to indulge the injury rather than offer grace.  We choose darkness over light.  I say choose because it is a choice.

I’m ashamed to admit that I have done this. Too. Often.

One instance stands out in my mind.  Maybe because I see a visual reminder every now and then.  It makes me cringe.

A few years ago, I chose self-righteous indignation over grace.  There was a child who was one of those kids who had the word TROUBLE written all over them.  At least that’s what I saw.  I did not want her around my kids.  She was a number of years older than them.  She was sneaky and manipulative.  I had every right to protect my kids from her but at the same time I didn’t do it in a way that was kind or gracious.  

I wrote her off as a LOST CAUSE.  She knew she had done some things I didn’t like and she wasn’t welcome.  She stopped coming by.

I still see her around.  I don’t know much about her but it appears I wasn’t far off on my prediction.  I take no pleasure in this.  Instead, it makes me wonder what would have happened if I had handled things a little differently.  

Instead of seeing TROUBLE, what if I’d looked closer and saw GRACE.  Instead of writing her off as a LOST CAUSE, I saw that she was, instead, a LOST GIRL.  What if I’d looked at her and saw how Christ saw me.  He saw a LOST GIRL who He offered GRACE to.  I wasn’t TROUBLE to Him.  He saw the potential of what could be.  He still does.  

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That’s how He sees this girl.  It’s how I should have seen her back then.  

I wonder too, what would be different today, if back then, I’d offered her friendship and  safety instead of being a mama bear with a snarl.

Do we need to protect our kids?  Absolutely.  I’m not saying we stop protecting them.  I’m not talking about abusive relationships here, either.  

But I think there are times we can protect them but still offer grace and love to the ones we are protecting them from.  Especially when it comes to kids and teens who bully, who have terrible home lives and who just need someone to believe in them.  Sometimes those kids don’t know any better and need someone to show them a better way.

We can still be kind but firm.  

We can still be loving but put in rules and boundaries.  I think some kids are just crying out for these simple things today because the world is so confusing.

We can still be gracious and say no.  

We have a choice to be kind to those in our circles of influence.  We think it really doesn’t matter but we can never know the ripple effect of just one small act of kindness.  One smile.  One grace given.  Even if we are in disagreement or trying to protect loved ones.

Would this girl’s life be any different today?  I have no idea.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  But I will never know because I made a choice not to be kind.  

TURN: To Kindness

It’s 4pm on a Friday afternoon. We are two weeks into summer vacation. I’m already thinking this is going to be a looong summer.

The world is angry. The weather is angry. People close to me seem angry. I’m a bit cranky myself. The heat and haze seem to be swallowing everything up in it’s steam. Tempers are short. People, plants and animals are wilting. The world has gone crazy. I just want to turn it all off. Pretend it’s not happening. But the reality is, the angry, hating, throbbing crowds are real. They aren’t going anywhere just because I don’t want to deal with it.  Shutting off social media, isn’t going to make them disappear.

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Recently I watched the new Cinderella movie. Yes I’m going with a fairy tale in my blog about the real, hurting world. Stay with me. One key line. The advice a dying mother gave her daughter. The secret of life: Have courage. Be kind.

Have courage. Be kind. The secret to life. I think there’s something to that. To be kind, it takes a whole lot of courage. Because it means giving of yourself. Usually your rights. Your right to have the last word. Or the first. Your right to be right. Your right to lay into someone who deserves to be told off. Your right to self-righteousness. Your right to get what you want. Your right to get what you think you deserve. Your right to justice and fairness. Your right …fill in the blank.

Being kind to someone means forfeiting your rights. Usually. When it’s easy to be kind to a friend or neighbour it doesn’t cost you anything. Being kind when the person doesn’t deserve it, takes it to a whole other plain. It’s where the courage comes in. That’s when kindness really counts and can make the all the difference in the whole world.

Think of a time when someone was kind to you and you didn’t really deserve it. How’d it make you feel? It probably changed the whole trajectory of your day, your mood. It’s that powerful.

I failed at this the other day. It’s been on my mind too this kindness thing. You think I would have leapt at the chance. I didn’t. I chose me, my rights over kindness.

We came out of swimming lessons and there was a van parked right beside my car. When I say right beside, I mean right beside! I couldn’t open my door. I could just squeeze in between the two vehicles. I’m surprised she didn’t hit me. There was a little family in that van. The mom came walking across the parking lot. I had the option to be nice or not. I said “You parked kinda close. I can’t even get my door open.’ in a very snotty voice. She apologized and went to move the van. I crawled in the passenger side of our car and ignored her. We drove out of the parking spot and away. I had the right to be annoyed and I took it. I didn’t yield to her. I didn’t give up my rights.

What did I gain? Nothing. I had a fleeting moment of satisfaction. That was so brief I barely felt it. Instead of showing my boys how to be kind, I modelled how to be justly annoyed. How to take your rights and run. Not a proud mothering moment.

It could have been so much more. I could have TURNED to kindness and shown them a whole other way to live. How to treat others with respect even if they are in the wrong. That everyone is valuable and worth our kindness. That it takes courage, a different kind of courage than the world talks about, to be kind. I didn’t.

I TURNED instead to me. My rights. My justice. It was wrong. Maybe not in this world but in the kingdom I should be worried about, it was wrong.

Being kind doesn’t take a whole lot. It’s not like love. It can be hard to Love everyday. Love gets messed up. People mess up love. Somedays we can’t manage it. But kindness is different. It takes a shift in perspective for sure. It’s not as easy as it looks or the world would be very different. I would have been different to that van driver. But it’s manageable  if we just get past ourselves. Our rights.

I believe kindness is almost as powerful as love. Kindness draws us in, even the most wary of us. It’s a TURNING towards love. A first step. If we can’t always do love, we can be kind. If everyone was just a little more kind to each other and to ourselves, I think the world could be different. My encounter with the van mom could have been different. Which would have made my day better. It’s a lesson I’m not going to easily forget.

Cinderella’s mom had a good thought. Have courage. Be kind. It just might be the secret to life. You know, the abundant kind.