In the past few days, I have heard the same comment from three different people in three different settings: “People have lost the ability to be kind.” One was in the church parking lot. One was at the grocery store. And one was at a restaurant.
I must admit that I quite agree with the statement. People, myself included, have seemingly lost the ability to be nice.
Our fuses are shorter than they used to be. Our ability to celebrate differences has evaporated. We combust at slights and inconveniences. We’re fatigued and tired, and kindness is not a high priority these days. It reveals itself on the round-about or in the grocery line or at the restaurant.
There are plenty of exceptions, but there seems to be a diminishing of a basic human relational quality – kindness. This past year has taken its toll on us all.
The island is coming back to life and all the visitors mark the height of the season for us. It’s fun to walk out to the beach and actually see people – kids playing, families laughing, kites flying. It all seems so normal.
But the toll of this past year can be seen in the long lines at restaurants or waiting a little longer than usual for your food once you are seated. The toll is also seen in line at the grocery store, or in any store, for that matter.
It’s seen in the rolling eyes or harsh stare. It’s heard in the mutter under the breath or the sharp word of displeasure. Kindness is waxing low.
The Apostle Paul must have been experiencing some of the same loss when he wrote to the church at Ephesus (a major trade city of the time). He must have sensed something going on within the lives of the people that caused him to write, “Be kind to one another.” (Ephesians. 4:32)
Notice he didn’t just say, “Buck up and do better.” He recognized that the problem can’t be solved by us just conjuring up kindness. It must come from a lasting, meaningful change at a heart level.
Paul goes to a different source when he says, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” The key to kindness is not doubling down on effort. It is not waking up each morning with a mantra of kindness.
Kindness comes from applying the life-altering, soul-shaking truth that Christ was kind to you when you did not deserve it.
Let that sink in for a moment. Christ, the only person in all of history who could truly say that He was wronged wrongly, treated us who wronged Him in the most loving and kind fashion – He gave His very life for us. He was kind toward us.
You might be hoping for three steps to become a kinder person. I’m sorry, but that won’t work. I’ll give you one step: Consider Christ. Behold Him. Look at Him. Sit with Him. Meditate upon Him and what He did for you until it changes you. His kindness will shine out of you.
Then, when you engage those around you, your heart will have been changed from within so that kindness flows freely and naturally toward them.
Give it a try. What do you have to lose?
Rev. Bill McCutchen is lead pastor of Hilton Head Presbyterian Church. firstname.lastname@example.org or hilton headpca.com