Friday, April 17, 2015

"kindness matters…."

"In the end,
only kindness matters..."

What we behold -- what we focus on, and call another's attention to -- matters. Yesterday I was overwhelmed by the volume of unkindness I was observing on Facebook.  Sarcastic jokes, cynicism, and outright mean-spiritedness in posts, shared links, and comments. It seemed as if there was a moratorium on basic human kindness. Jewell's "Hands," came to the rescue again.

Over and over again that one line, "in the end, only kindness matters," flooded my heart. How many times have I been saved by its reminder.  Even when I've felt justified in rebutting something posted that I believed was untrue or unwarranted, I have been led to ask myself, "Is what you are thinking of doing kind?" If it's not, then I know I will regret it.  Kindness -- doing unto others as we would have them do unto us -- always wins the day.

And yet, there seems to be an unwritten rule that if we believe someone has made a mistake, done something regrettable, or admitted a wrong, we have every right to call attention to it, publish remarks about it, and repost the negative opinions of experts, pundits, or journalists.

But isn't this just what Jesus addresses when the woman who was "caught in the very act" is brought to him for judgment and eventual stoning. At first he tries to stay out of the verbal and punitive fray. When asked to weigh in on the moral wrongness of her mistakes, he stoops down and writes in the dust. But when pushed to respond, he says, "He who is without sin among you, cast the first stone."

He doesn't say, "He he who has never committed this particular sin, cast the first stone." But any sin.  It's so easy to see sin in terms of a hierarchy of offense. As long as we think someone else's offense is worse than our own, we seem to feel fully justified in calling attention to it.  But isn't this act of publishing of someone's failings, the same as casting a stone at them.

And isn't this what the Master absolutely refuses to do. Even after everyone who has felt the condemnation of his own conscience leaves the square without casting a stone at the woman, Jesus himself assures her, "Neither do I condemn thee, go and sin no more." Go, and no longer feel separate from God's love, direction, protection, guidance, discipline, and care.

I have made mistakes in my life. And I have felt the stones of harsh criticism and cold disdain hit me squarely between my shoulder blades. I have known the sorrow of feeling misunderstood and judged for my mistakes. Those were lonely days.  But, I have also heard the invitation to cozy up with the jeering crowd, take aim, and toss a stone or two myself. And I have to tell you, nothing is more sickening than hearing the thud of gossip against the back of someone's reputation or peace-of-mind.

The stone lifted - and cast - is heavy. It weighs down the heart of the one who lifts and throws it. And don't be fooled. Just because our modern stones don't break bones, it doesn't mean that they don't break hearts.

Yesterday I saw something posted about a public figure that was so cruel and ugly, it -- quite literally -- made me nauseous. It was shocking to me that anyone would want to publicly attach themselves to unkindness. And sadly, it was posted by someone I respect and care deeply about. I was baffled -- it seemed incompressible to me.  I just couldn't understand why. I contacted my friend, who said, "well, it was based on something that actually did happen." 

Ah yes, "caught in the very act."

Well,  if "caught in the very act," wasn't enough justification for Jesus to join in throwing stones -- why has it become so for us? Do we think that we are contributing to the public good by calling attention to someone's failings? I am sure that the crowd in the public square that day, thought they were protecting the sanctity of their community values by stoning the adulteress and setting a public example. But Jesus didn't buy it, so why should we?

Do we think it makes us look clever, well-informed, or wise to remind the world of another's mistakes or failings? Is it okay because these people are just symbols to us -- symbols of culture, society, government, commerce? It reminds me of the young man on trial for the attempted murder of a classmate.  He said that he'd learned all about shooting-to-kill in a video game.  And that because the characters aren't real, it doesn't really hurt them. He said that after a few moments, they just get up and the game continues.

But, this is not a game. Our public figures, celebrities, the community member we watch from a distance, and then stone for their mistakes and faltering steps -- are real people. They have feelings, and families, and friendships.

Aren't we better than the self-righteous crowd in the square - standing with stone in hand. Just because someone has been "caught in the very act," doesn't mean we can't be true to who we are and respond with respect, humanity, kindness, and grace.  We have the right to our spiritual integrity -- our focus on good, our contribution to healing, and to blessing "even our enemies."  Another's behavior doesn't justify our retreat into a mob mentality of casting aspersions or stones.

When we carry those stones around in our hearts -- they weigh us down. Put them down.  Instead, let's seek out - and call attention to - the good in humanity. Let's focus on something worthy of our time, energy and devotion. 

You know, I don't believe I have ever decided to not be-friend, vote for, or welcome into my heart someone because I had read, or heard, a negative item of news or gossip about them. I can't imagine you have either.

Let's follow Jesus.  Let's refuse to get caught up in a season of stoning.  Let's turn our attention to the enduring, the good, and the true in ourselves and others. Let's appreciate what is beautiful, honest and humane in society, and watch it appreciate -- grow in value -- before our eyes. This is putting on the mantle of kindness.

And in the end, only kindness matters.

offered with Love,


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