In our April newsletter I promised a return to simple things. Kindness seems simple doesn’t it?
Are you kind to your beloved? Is she/he still your beloved? Did you not love one another once? When did the harsh words and frustration creep in?
I have a lot of opportunity to talk to people when they are vulnerable. When they are hurt. When they are struggling in their relationships. One common thing I detect is a sneaking unkindness toward the other.
We tend to get focused on the nagging sins of the other, how they frustrate and inconvenience us. We become set in our minds that there will be little or no improvement. With this as our constant mental backdrop we feel little need for being kind.
Shame on us.
There is no encouragement in Scripture, and therefore no instruction from the heart of God, for us to focus on another’s failings. None. Instead, there is an overwhelming teaching that we rivet our attention on our own spirits. Hear this,
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! 2 Corinthians 13:5
Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord! Lamentations 3:40
But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. Galatians 6:4
But wait, aren’t we notoriously bad at being honest with ourselves!?!
Doesn’t the Bible say, ‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?’ (Jeremiah 17:9) So what hope is there for us to find our own sins and reverse them? It’s why David cried out, ‘Examine me, O Lord, and try me; Test my mind and my heart.’ (Psalm 26:2)
We are bad enough at self-examination that many of us never break free from our failure. Crying out to the Lord for a thorough scrutiny is the only place to start. Sincere desire for a deep soul-work is a state of being the Lord can work with. We often don’t sense the need for this much intensity until the foundations of our lives drop through. Only when crises hits do we pay attention.
I’ve recently been reading A.W. Tozer’s, The Pursuit of God. He spends a great deal of time in Chapter 3: Removing the Veil talking about how to stop our self-attention, our self-promotion as he calls it. Or, as I perceive the question: ‘How do we identify and correct the bad stuff within?’
Having worked with many, many men and women on the issues of disconnection and relationships, I can tell you it’s extremely difficult to cut through the haze of self. I find most to have a lingering blindness to their own failures and how they affect others. Only rarely do I find someone who has been crushed enough to recognize their own blackness. It’s sad, because most of them discover too late. But discovering the deep darkness of our own hearts is the only path to coming into true light. If only there were a magic formula to help someone come to the point of recognition and repentance!
Tozer recognized the difficulty. He understood that we are very bad judges of ourselves. But he also recognized the necessity of knowing our sins and killing them. He offers one great hope on the subject. He puts it like this, ‘There must be a work of God in destruction before we are free. We must invite the cross to do its deadly work within us.’
I agree. The only hope for true change is to invite the cross to do its deadly work in us. Sounds brutal, doesn’t it? It is. Cleansing of gold doesn’t come without extreme heat. Our hearts are gold to God and He applies heat to cleanse while making that heat bearable for us.
Now how did we get here, talking about sin and blackness and correction, in a post about kindness? Because, WE CANNOT PRACTICE KINDNESS OUT OF AN UNKIND HEART.
It’s typically our heart that needs cleansing, not our partner’s habits or failures. I say typically because I know there are all kinds of relationships and all kinds of people. Some people are unusually mean – they probably aren’t reading this. Others are unapologetically selfish – they aren’t reading this either. Some relationships are co-dependent and seriously unhealthy – this post won’t help them.
A great way to start being kind to your spouse again is empathizing with them and recognizing their pain. My new men and women’s companion workbooks for The Disconnected Man really dig deep to help you and your loved one forge a stronger, more intimate, and most importantly, kind relationship.
My hope is this post will reach those of you who have become unkind because you’ve been hurt by the one you love. You tried, you loved, they failed. You kept trying, they kept failing. But you still love them and would be thrilled if things could be different. It’s just that every time they fail, you lash out with unkindness. How do you change that? We’ll look at that in our next post.