What Happened to Kindness?
I’m walking down the streets of the Americana in Glendale last week, searching for the perfect present. Minding my own business, I round the edge of the movie theatre towards Anthropologie, and out of no where I crash into a lady. (Lady used loosely.)
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! WATCH WHERE YOU ARE GOING!” she shouts in her German accent, reminiscent of Hitler. “I am so sorry! Please excuse me – I didn’t see you stop.” Dead stop. Out of no where.
“THAT’S BECAUSE YOU DON’T HAVE A MIND!” Really, is that why? Or is it because you decided to rummage through your purse in the middle of the street? “Thank you,” I responded, “That’s very kind of you.” I kept moving forward, staring into space, wondering if I had ran into the twilight zone.
Sometimes I miss the South.
Land of manners. Tact. Our mothers/aunties/grandmas/friends’ parents give the look of death if we don’t say important words: Please. Thank you. Yes ma’am. No ma’am. Excuse me. I’m sorry. Disrespect welcomes wrath and God forbid you sass an elder. If it is rude, it is a problem.
Is it just me, or are people growing angrier? Less courteous? More rude? It’s as if we feel entitled to say anything we think and feel, disregarding the thoughts and feelings of others, as if our way is the best and highest. Consideration is a value only when its conveniently personal.
Growing up, I attended cotillion courses. Not only did I learn to set a table, sit up straight without my elbows resting around my dinner plate, cut meat rather than fork it, but I also learned the fox trot, the waltz, the shag, and how to graciously move from person to person in situational training opportunities. Besides all the boys staring at my chest, rather than my face, due to my freakishly tall height, the whole experience helped me learn grace, elegance, class, tact.
A wise man once said to me, “Love always practices etiquette.” You know why? Because love is kind. Love is considerate and full of grace. Love is patient – it will wait to speak. Love is not boastful, it does not behave rudely – it does not seek its own way, but seeks to prefer others. Love responds well in difficult circumstances. It’s not that I am expecting random strangers at the Americana to be kind, but it is strange to experience what my mama would call “mean as a snake”. I am glad it still shocks me. I am glad it still catches me off guard. It reminds me I don’t want to live that way.
When I am on the receiving end of unkind words or inconsideration, it makes me ask myself hard questions: Have my emotions pressed me to snap at a stranger recently? Have I been holding any offense inside longer than I should, that could lead me to blow up at someone? Are my thoughts toward anyone more negative than positive? If so, why? Am I rude, selfish, unkind? Do I create an environment of warmth for people to rest in? Do I live out hospitality in my own home, in my friendships, in my workplace, in my church?
Do I have any false expectations of people causing me to feel bitter or offended? If my expectations are healthy, are there any conversations I need to have to clarify a relationship? Will the conversations be beneficial or will they create more pain and confusion? Am I having the conversation in love for the person or because I am consumed with my own needs and perspective? Am I projecting anything on anyone? Am I bothered by the person I am frustrated with because of the reality of their behavior, or because its a reminder of my own?
I know, I know, that’s 13 questions. I’ve probably read Changes that Heal too many times, but it is incredibly important that we spend more time reflecting on ourselves and the condition of our own hearts and souls than we do reflecting on others and the condition of their heart and soul. That’s the difference between a healthy heart and a judgmental, critical, potentially bitter heart.
There is nothing I have guard over or control over, but my own soul, my own heart. We are powerless to change anyone – we are empowered with grace to change ourselves. This knowledge helps us release and forgive others.
Walking in love is the most painful walk we will ever take. But its worth it. Every time. How’s your love walk?