Reviving Kindness in a Defensive Culture

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Where has basic kindness and respect gone? I find myself constantly asking this question lately. I’m not talking about the random acts of kindness that are sometimes trendy, although I think those are wonderful, but the intentional, common-courtesy acts of kindness that we learned in grade school.

Saying please and thank you, treating each other as equal and valuable, believing that difference of opinion is to be expected and we can be friends anyway. When did we begin to ignore the fact that each of us are human, a child of God, deserving of respect and appreciation and instead treat one another as an obstacle or item to push past, fight against, or ignore completely?

I’ve been thinking about this topic for days in preparation to write this, so I’ve been more closely noticing the actions of others that I typically don’t on a regular basis. Just today, my husband and I were at a restaurant after church and as we were waiting in the foyer for a table to become available an older gentleman who was also waiting stood with his wife in a corner behind the door. For at least ten minutes that man, let’s call him James to save time, continuously opened and held the door for countless people coming and going. After the first few people walked past, I began noticing how many of them said thank you to James, or rather, how few did. One after another, people blew through that doorway and never acknowledged James. Some did of course and I mentally high-fived those few, but the majority just walked on by.

I wanted to give people the benefit of the doubt and think they were just wrapped up in their hanger (so hungry you’re angry) so they didn’t notice that the door wasn’t automatic, but as I payed closer attention I could see people watching James open that door, even glancing his direction, but never uttering a simple thank you or even offering a wordless smile.

I know this may seem simple and unimportant, and maybe you think I’m making a big deal out of something small, but this isn’t about this one occasion for me. I’m not disappointed just because a few people didn’t say thank you to a gentleman who opened the door for them, I’m disappointed because this is yet another example of what seems to be the current norm of our culture. It feels like it just keeps getting worse and worse. Maybe it’s just because I’ve been raised in the South, but it feels like basic manners, respect, appreciation and kindness for our fellow humans is slowly dying more and more.

Facebook and twitter are full of people shouting at one another over their differences. Democrat, republican. Racist, sexist, inclusive. Pro-life, pro-choice. Yoga is a sin, yoga is a spiritual gateway to God, yoga is just exercise. Church looks too much like a rock concert, church is too old-fashioned. Gluten kills, gluten is fine. Eating meat keeps you healthy, eating meat causes heart problems at an early age. Private school, public school, homeschool.

Some things are major issues, but a lot of it is personal preference and opinion and yet, big or small, it is defended as if each of us personally determines the overarching truth for everyone and disagreement is a personal attack. And, for those of us who do try to give grace and kindness as much as we can, we are often seen as weak and standing for nothing.

When did that happen? When did we forget basic communication skills and how to agree to disagree? When did we decide that the only way to stand up for what we believe is to scream louder than the next person and insult their intelligence when they see things differently?

It breaks my heart to watch the divide between people grow, especially between Christians. If any group of people are going to be united and for each other shouldn’t it be us, the ones who are eternally connected by the same Father, filled with unconditional Love? As the world gets darker and people separate more, shouldn’t we be a shining light of unity and healthy communication? I certainly think so. But sadly, it is often Christians who are the most divided, who argue with and belittle one another over tiny details and difference of opinion. I believe this is one of the most effective schemes the enemy has ever devised. The world is in desperate need of Jesus, but how can they see Him when His people are tearing one another apart limb-by-limb?

I’m sorry if this seems heavy. I’m typically the person who keeps things light and happy, but as I write this it feels heavy. It feels serious and a little discouraging. But it also feels like a call for revival. Revival of hope in the hearts of the hopeless. Revival of respect for one another, even (especially) those who believe and look differently than us. If ever there was a time when the world is desperate for a revival of unlimited kindness, I believe it is now.

I know it may feel impossible and even a little uncomfortable to be kind to those who are saying we’re ignorant for believing and following Jesus and His Word, but it is His Word that gives us the direction and encouragement that we need to pursue kindness - even when the world sees it as weakness. As always, Scripture holds the answers that we so desperately need to not only survive, but also make an impact during our time on Earth. Here are just a few that I find helpful and applicable in our pursuit of kindness and respect for one another:

If you want to receive kindness, give kindness. We all know Matthew 7:12 whether we realize it is Scripture or not, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.” (New International Version) The golden rule, learned in kindergarten. Treat others how you want to be treated. Simple enough, right?

Respect one another and give honor when it is due. “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans 10:12, NIV) “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3, NIV)

This doesn’t mean to think of yourself as worthless in comparison to others or to place anyone on a pedestal, it simply means to take your focus off yourself and to give respect to others and value them as a person, even if you disagree with their opinions. As verse 4 of Philippians 3 continues, “not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (NIV)

We are all children of God, in need of His Love and Grace. “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26-18, NIV)

I need Jesus just as much as you do. Those who don’t know Him need Him even more. And it is our privilege as His children to live a life so full of an easy, unlimited kindness and respect for others that they will want to know Him too. Jesus doesn’t heal and save based on race, gender or political views, He opens His arms to everyone who needs Him and we get to do the same.

We don’t have to shout the loudest or cause the biggest riot in order to bring people to Jesus, His whisper is loud enough to carry across every screaming voice. We don’t need to bring another argument, we just need to bring the presence of God. That is how revival happens. That is how we change the world. Not with a megaphone, but with intentional acts of unconditional kindness.

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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