Tag Archives: kindness

Kind Friendliness – Does It Need Some Work?

kind-friendliness

Recently we have been experiencing a lot of kind friendliness. This is a term Nan uses when I am grumpy. She will say “I need your kind friendliness.” I know what she means. My grumpiness tends to translate into a more critical or negative behavior.

We have been dealing with quite a few new people as we set up a vacation cabin. What we have experienced is a lot of genuinely nice people. What makes them that way? Is it just good customer service training? I don’t think so. I believe it goes deeper than that.

The attitude might be a result of living in a less densely populated area. Or perhaps it might be the result of being in a community where people need to rely on each other much more because of fewer options. We have experienced this kind of attitude in rural Hawaii also. The people take time with each other. They are not in a hurry to move on. As our pastor would say, there is not the mindset of “chop, chop, get it done!” In Hawaii they pause to “talk story.”

I experience this “kind friendliness” at church all the time. I believe it is because we genuinely like our church community and we have intentionally cultivated this attitude towards each other. I am not sure we have slowed down to the extent that we have been enjoying at the cabin location, but it seems a marked contrast to the busy Los Angeles culture.

I wonder how many relationships lack kind friendliness? Yes, I am talking about the  romantic types, but also other kinds as well. Sometimes I treat strangers better than I do family members. I smile more and am more patient with them. I might respond defensively that I am more “real” with people that are closer to me, but does that actually mean that I should treat them with less kindness or respect?

It is true that close relationships require us to develop more resiliency. The more intimate the relationship, the more necessary it will  be to give and receive forgiveness readily, particularly for small offenses. But I want to draw as little on the goodwill that exists as I am able.

Things I can do to promote kind friendliness:

  • Ask for what I want, not what I don’t want or like.
  • Watch my tone. Do I sound harsh, critical or cold?
  • Use the “sandwich” technique: affirmation – request – affirmation.
  • Smile, make eye contact while communicating, assume positive intent from the other person.

Holiday seasons are particularly vulnerable to stress related behavior. It’s a great time to practice kind friendliness.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NLT)  “So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.”

Another Relational Red Flag

redflag

You have been there. You are standing in a customer service line at a local store and the woman at the front of the line is arguing with the store representative. She gets louder and louder and more insistent and belligerent. You cringe. You are embarrassed for her, and you are feeling a lot of empathy for the employee.

I must admit that in the above scenario I always pray that the bully is not a member of our church. In “Christian-speak” we call it “blowing your witness”. That is when your spoken beliefs and your actions do not match. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that Christians have been labeled hypocrites – because in this case it is deserved.

In our premarrieds class I call this out as a red flag issue. I will ask the students to evaluate their partners. How do they treat service people, or wait staff in a restaurant? Are they kind and respectful towards them, or do they treat them as if they were lesser people? And why is this important? Eventually you will become the target of their displeasure and you are likely to be treated just as harshly or disrespectfully. Or you will have to stand by, perhaps in a public setting or in front of friends,  thoroughly embarrassed while your beloved is having a temper tantrum.

Yes, there are times when it is appropriate to be assertive. But this does not mean hostile and angry. I have found that the old saying “you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” is largely true. Kindness is much more likely to motivate someone to help you get your needs met than rude or arrogant behavior. When I need to deal with a situation where I desire a corrective response I use phrases like: “I noticed that….”, or “I would like to bring something to your attention”, or “ I would like to request that….”.  I usually get good results.

From a Christian standpoint, Jesus suggests that it is better to take the hit, than to insist on getting our way. He never confronted anyone for selfish reasons. Instead he defended the weak; those that were being oppressed or taken advantage of by the religious leaders. Why was he so stern with these Pharisees? They were misrepresenting God to the people.

It is the kindness of God that leads to repentance. Our objective with our Christian brothers and sisters is restoration, not rejection. And our goal with others is to win them over with our love. That can’t be done if we are “pitching a fit”.

Pastor Tim Keller suggests that the solution in marriage (especially) is learning to forgive before confronting. It will change the whole interaction from primarily being a selfish pursuit (wanting only to be heard rather than to restore). Instead of seeking to punish, lecture or condemn, the goal is to connect, to understand and to reconcile.

Red flags mean stop: course correction needed before proceeding.

Romans 12:10 (NIV) Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 

Philippians 2:3-4 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. 

Ephesians 4:15 (NLT) Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 

John 13:34-35 (NLT) So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

For The Love of God

separate2

The husband had really messed up and he knew it. He sat there with his eyes downcast as he told his story. His wife had a real right to be hurt, angry and upset. But his story was not just a defensive explanation by someone who got caught in his misdeeds. It was a raw revelation of early pain, mistreatment and trauma that had been locked away for years. As he finished his story his wife put her hand on his arm and with tears in her eyes said “None of those things should have ever happened to you. You didn’t deserve any of it.” He broke down in tears and began apologizing in honest heartfelt words.

The above story is not one person’s story – but a composite of many that we have witnessed. The offenders have been both wives and husbands, men and women. But it does not always go so well. Sometimes the pain of the offense is too great to let go of in the moment. Sometimes the defensive walls are up too high to scale. But when there are soft hearts on both sides, the atmosphere is ripe for a relationship miracle.

Romans 2:4 “Do you not know that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?”

I love the above scripture. Perhaps I can rework it to fit what I am trying to communicate.

“Do you not know that a spouse’s kindness can lead to their partner’s repentance?”

Kindness is grace in action. In situations like the one described it is an undeserved gift. It becomes an opportunity to radically change a marriage. But I need to add, it requires true sincerity and real change. It must not perpetuate a cycle of abuse or other sinful behaviors. You are not “off the hook.” Grace is not an unlimited “get out of jail free” card. Repentance means to “turn away from” – in this case, from the hurtful and harmful behavior.

How does an offended spouse choose to offer kindness in place of anger or rejection? It does not seem like a normal human reaction, and it isn’t. The most common reaction would be to pull back or strike back in pain, disgust or fear. I would say that it is only for the love of God that we can achieve this. If we truly understand our own failings that God has forgiven, we are more likely to be able to offer it to others.

Forgiveness is much easier for small offences, the ones that don’t affect our lives in any major way. When a serious one comes our way, that is when the strength of our faith and the softness of our heart is on the line. Yes, sometimes we have to pull back first and absorb the wound and work with ourselves with God and others. But if we can first forgive and then go and confront those who have hurt us, we are much more likely to offer kindness instead of shame or blame. Can you do that? For the love of God?