Mourning the Loss of Kindness

With the end of the New Year close at hand, I have looked back at this year to see what I can do towards improving me for the year 2012.

My lists of failures during 2011 are long and repetitive. I failed to really meet any goal for weight loss. I failed to keep my doctor’s appointments, dental and eye exams to help keep me in tip-top shape. I didn’t push myself away from hours and hours of games and nonsense at the helm of my computer.

As a Christian, I also failed to read my Bible every day. I failed to pray every day. I failed to show up at church each week, and I failed miserably in encouraging others to come and share a time of worship with me.

Looking back, the biggest failure I am most ashamed of is that I have taught my children, those I love, and those I hope to do better than me in life, that being unkind to each other is okay. Over and over, I have looked back at this year and remembered too many unkind words spoken in haste, tossed out in anger, and not once did I think about how unkind I was being to the other person.

I actually remember the moment in my life when I realized that being unkind gave me a feeling of power, kind of a “one-up” on the other guy. I was in high school, and I was part of the National Forensic League kids. No, we weren’t in to dissecting cadavers to solve murder mysteries, but rather, we were the Speech and Debate team. Our specialty was winning word wars. We would study facts and half truths, and toss them out like little grenades to blow up in our opponents faces. After a year of major wins at speech tournaments, we were a group of sharp witted teenagers who began to use our words to put others down. We would all laugh when the person found our ‘burn’ was offensive and say we were just kidding, but the truth of the matter is, we weren’t just kidding. We liked the fact that we were quick enough to come up with something unkind to say about almost any situation in anyone’s life. They would be embarrassed and we would be the winner. The winners of being unkind.

Of course, you can put this all off to being young and stupid, but the truth of the matter is, the world changed with us. When there was a line between good and bad, being unkind, especially in an intelligent conversation, became a prize that everyone wanted to be able to gift others.

Bumper stickers shouted “I refuse to have a battle of wits with an unarmed opponent”, showing our intellectual superiority and haughtiness towards them.

Now-a-days, people bring their loved ones on television shows to announce their infidelities, their darkest secrets and in very unkind words, laugh as the person they ‘love’ react with equal venom, unkind words spit out full of hate.

So, back to me.

I claim to be a Christian. I claim to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ…so why am I being so unkind to others, even if I don’t like what they say or do? How ashamed I am when I hear my children speak unkindly to each other, or laugh at the ability to hurt their sibling(s), even if it’s “all in fun”. I don’t ever remember one time that someone said something unkind to me that made me feel as if I was having fun.

And yet, I am as guilty as anyone for applying my sharp words around and letting them hang out in the universe to chop and cut at the heart of someone else. I used to think that was a sign of intelligence. As I come to the end of my years on this earth, I am beginning to see that it’s a sign of being unkind, and I am ashamed that it is a part of me that I have passed on with such fervor to the generations that follow me.

I weep.

Lost in the realization of how much my pride fights being kind to others, I am truly disappointed in myself as person; looking at my life through unkind eyes, I could only turn to the Holy Bible for relief of my pain.

In the second chapter of Romans, there is a discussion of people who pass judgment on others and then show contempt for “the richest of God’s kindness”. It asks if we don’t realize that God’s kindness is intended to lead us to repentance. I find it interesting that as God’s word works into my heart, his words are always kind to me, even when he needs to correct something terrible I have said or done; he has always shown me kindness…when did I forget that?

When we are unkind to others, it’s usually because they haven’t done what we want, or agreed with us, or they’ve made us mad. It feels so good to be unkind to them because our wounded pride calls out for hurt-in-kind….you hurt me, let me hurt you, we think it’s all even then. The truth of the matter is, like me, you get caught up in a revolving door of unkindness.

So, today, I will begin on a new journey to kindness. I will strive to watch what I say before I say it, and that’s no small task for a big mouth like me. I will take the words of unkindness and work hard to stop them before I give them flight.

Unkind words break my heart when they are thrown my way, so they must do the same to those I sling unkind words at. Why has it taken me so long to realize that?

Maybe it’s an old people thing. Realizing I am entering the last years of my life, I want to leave a legacy that will last a lifetime, and instead of leaving a pride filled people with sharp edged tongues cutting each other apart, I would be glad to think that I would have encouraged others to be kinder to each other while I choose to be kinder to anyone I encounter while on this earth.

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