Pastor’s Corner (2/17/2022)
“…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
During our recent DOC/UCC Clergy Retreat at the Saint Benedict Center in Schuyler, we had the opportunity to hear Rev. Bruce Reyes Chow talk about his recent book In Defense of Kindness: Why it Matters, How It Changes Our Lives, and How It Can Save the World. Bruce’s basic definition of kindness is “treating people as complex creatures created by God.” As people of faith, we often talk about the importance of recognizing that everyone, including ourselves, has value as creations of God. However, Bruce pointed out how challenging, particularly in these times, it is to recognize that we are all complex creations of God. When we face times of conflict or difficulty, one coping mechanism we often employ is looking at people as one dimensional. We often focus on that one quality or component with which we agree or disagree. Bruce also emphasized that kindness is a choice, one he invites us to make each day and sometimes several times during the day. So often we do not want to choose kindness because our culture has come to perceive kindness as weakness. Making the choice for kindness requires great courage.
Perhaps one of the greatest challenges regarding kindness is showing kindness to ourselves. Sometimes our harshest language is directed at ourselves. Bruce suggested that as we become more able to show kindness towards ourselves we become more able to do so with those closest to us and then with those we do not know.
One of the most difficult aspects of kindness is discerning when it is time to walk away. This may be a short term decision, in which we walk away from a conversation or encounter, or a long range one. When we find ourselves in the midst of a heated conversation it often becomes difficult to see our conversation partner as a complex creation of God and it becomes easier to see them as one dimensional. Then it becomes easier to discount them, their opinions, and their thoughts. Walking away may be the best gift we give them and ourselves. As we move through these times of polarization, it is sometimes tempting to believe we must engage with everyone. Bruce reminded us that sometimes walking away is kindness for everyone concerned. When we begin to perceive the other person as one dimensional, that is a critical sign that walking away might be best for everyone involved. He went on to say that walking away need not be forever; this response may only be for a season or a limited time. Stepping back allows us to consider all the things going on with another person. Space provides grace for both parties.
Bruce went on to make the point that trauma, named and unnamed, often affects how we relate to one another. We find ourselves in a time when everyone has been traumatized in one way or another. Living through the pandemic and current societal issues has affected all of us in different ways. Recognizing that for ourselves and one another makes it even more imperative that we choose kindness.
The definition of the word kindness also provides some guidance. Kindness is the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. The origin of the word means “kin” as in one’s family, race, or relations. To treat someone with kindness is to treat them as one would treat family and close friends, perhaps even better. How different might our lives and our congregations be if we treated ourselves and one another with friendliness, generosity, and consideration? How might we be changed as we truly see ourselves and others as complex creatures created by our loving God? Rev. Chow certainly inspired me to be more kind. If you would like to learn more, be sure to get his book, it’s in print and available as an eBook. I also learned that soon it will be available as an audio book, too. If we could gather 10 people together to purchase and read his book, he would join the group for a Zoom session. Something to think about.
May we each be inspired to make the choice for kindness.
With love and joy,