I’ve picked up a bad habit I’d like to break. The problem is it seems there are plenty of people who have picked up the same habit and are only too willing to encourage its resuscitation. But several recent experiences have provoked me to invite some personal transformation.
One experience involves a stranger. Several months ago, Brent and I were dining at Good Earth. I was waiting for the restroom behind someone who clearly lived some very different values than I do. Last week I was back at the same restaurant with friends and that person came to mind as I headed to the restroom. I even thought to myself how funny it would be if I ran into him again. Believe it or not, that’s when he walked up behind me to get in line. I believe in God’s sovereignty enough to sit up and take notice.
As I asked God just what I should notice, something struck me. Because of the circumstances, I sensed him wanting me to prepare to pour out kindness when I’m put into similar circumstances in the future. That shouldn’t be difficult. It often costs little or nothing to be kind. It’s what Christ would do. I can pray for others and speak truth when prompted, but mostly he wants me to start by being kind.
How easy it seems to have become for many of us to withhold kindness for one reason or another.
What I’ve noticed is how wide spread the delight in criticism, critique and discovering the faults, failings and apparent foibles of others is. It seems so easy to complain about anything from the driving to the apparel of strangers. That is pervasive enough, but what I’m especially disturbed by is the constant pin-pointing of things we think we are smarter and better at among those we actually know. It might be friends, family members or co-workers. Among these are often people simply trying to do their best in life.
Think about any one person you know. Consider the past three to five things you’ve thought about this person. Maybe you’ve even voiced these thoughts to someone else. Are your thoughts anything you’d be willing to share directly with the person? Are they thoughts that build up or tear down that person? If you’re like me, you’d really like to have the column that “builds up” be a great deal longer than the “tear down” one.
Let me be clear. I’m not talking about never speaking hard truth to people. I’m a BIG fan of truth. I’m not talking about putting our heads in the sand and turning a blind eye to ungodly behavior or attitudes. I’m all for speaking the truth in love to those we care about – even when it means voicing concern about friend’s choices. And I enjoy real and lively discussions even when they end in agreeing to disagree.
What I am referring to is giving one another a break. Rooting for people around us. Expecting the best. Disregarding minor disagreements or things we think we’d do differently than them. Life is hard enough. We all have challenges and difficult decisions in families, relationships and work. All of us have “stuff” that gets in the way of living perfectly. Let’s not add to the burden.
I’ve lived long enough to see the great power of encouragement. Wouldn’t I rather be used to help empower and promote confidence in someone? Often I’ve seen people so run down and worn out by others that they begin to question who they are, what they’re doing and where they’re going, simply because of a string of comments or reactions by others.
I wonder what will happen if I make a distinct and conscious effort to notice and pay attention to what I admire and respect in those around me. What if I step out to speak these words aloud? What might God do with a few positive words and gestures?
Lord, increase our love for one another and multiply our frail attempts to encourage and empower. Enable us see one another through your eyes. And help us give each other a break.