I’m sure anyone who spends any amount of time on social media would agree that kindness is in short supply these days. It’s terrifyingly easy to use the anonymity of the internet as a breeding ground for rudeness, sarcastic disdain, and mockery. To my shame, I’ve done it myself…far more than I’d like to admit. It seems so much easier to toss out a cutting, pithy jab than to take the time to actually relate to another person’s comments, and we don’t fear any sort of consequences because we can simply unfollow a thread and be done with it.
But, besides the fact that unkindness is sin whether or not we know its victim, any character trait – negative or positive – becomes “perfect” with practice. Thus, allowing ourselves to walk in the flesh of mean-spiritedness on Facebook very often translates to our real lives. Perhaps we poke a bit less harshly when we can actually look into another’s eyes, but continually allowing ourselves to get away with “clever” online nastiness cannot help but seep into non-virtual reality. After all, Jesus told us a person’s “mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart” (Luke 6.45).
And those directly on the other end of our barbs aren’t the only victims. Our children – for whom we are role models whether we like it or not – inevitably notice even if we aim for kindness with them. And they’ll conclude one of two things: either that we’re hypocrites for demanding kindness of them while ignoring it for ourselves, or that the God of the universe has no power to actually change sinful souls.
I wrote last time about how patience is hard for me. I admitted that my daughters laughed when I mentioned the topic of my article because they know my weakness. I’m a work in progress, of course, but it pierced my heart to realize that impatience is still a significant enough struggle that my daughters (accurately) identify me with it in the present tense. And unkindness almost always tags along with my impatience, baring its ugly teeth when I “don’t have time” for another’s “stupidity.” I loathe the idea of my daughters seeing or hearing my nastiness, and it doesn’t matter that it’s not directed at them; if affects them nonetheless.
I faced an interesting learning experience this week. I was legitimately wronged by a third-party, and I felt sure I couldn’t just let it go because the same situation also hurts many others. Dealing with it required that I make a number of phone calls…and because I homeschool, I knew my daughters would hear my end of every conversation. Too often, they’ve heard rudeness born of impatience. But not this time. Of course, I didn’t do it on my own; instead, I actively chose to let the Lord lead me. I asked Him to do so before every call and I decided to regularly remind myself that He will always provide for His Fruit if we let Him. And I found – as if it were visible fruit growing before my eyes – that choosing patience yielded kindness without even trying. So this time my girls heard firm but measured requests, not yelling and ire.
It was one circumstance on one day…but it showed me again that we really can walk in the Spirit if we just let Him take the lead. How are you doing that today?
Photo Credit: David Bruce