“… and be kind, compassionate, forgiving one another as God is Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32
I grew up with early memories that kindness is not always the first response when people hurt me. With kindness, come a lot of different emotions. The good emotions arrive when I offer or receive the kindness. Less than best emotions result when kindness is denied or disregarded.
Recently I was flying home with my husband from a ministry trip. Unfortunately we didn’t have seats together, so we both agreed we would ask our neighbor if they would be willing to change seats with one of us. Either passenger would have a better seat with the trade, but neither was willing to make an exchange.
I must admit most of the flight I kept thinking about what had just happened. It would have been so kind if one of them had been willing to change seats so my husband and I could sit together for the three hour flight? I now had a choice, remain unhappy and disappointed, or deal with it, let it go and enjoy the flight.
Life isn’t always fair. Even as defenseless children we can be the objects to the unkindness of injustice or unfair treatment whether on the playground, in the class room, on a sports team or by an inconsiderate teacher, maybe a parent. We would like to think those mistreatments only happen when we’re young. However, the unfair, inconsiderate or naïve insensitivity of others does not end when we reach adolescence. Inequities follow us throughout life. It’s up to us how we allow the lack of kindness by others to shape our lives and respond to them.
When unkindness comes to me, I find myself going back to Ephesians 4:32. I call it my “forgiveness formula.” While forgiveness is all about “letting go” of the unfairness done to me, it is very easy to quickly read through that verse and only see “forgive one another.” I admit that I can gloss over the first two words, “Be kind.” It is so easy to say, “God, do you know what she/he did to me? I can never forgive that person.” A loving God gently responds, “I know what just happened, be kind.”
I next ask, how in the world could I ever be kind to that person? I don’t feel or find any kindness in me right now. And a gracious God adds, “Kindness is a fruit of My Spirit, knowing there are times when you don’t have any to give” (Galatians 5:22). At this moment, the God of heaven targets my heart and address what I don’t have, not what I have. Next, I pray, “Lord, give me your kind thoughts for that person.” When that happens, God continues the verse in Ephesians and I find compassion, God’s. When I think kind thoughts and even begin doing kind deeds, my heart softens with tenderness for the person that was unkind toward me, quite possibly because of events or circumstances in their own life. Before long the process toward “letting go” or forgiveness appears. Yes, a process, not always an instant victory or quick fix! Sometimes, it takes time. Time in thought, word and deed.
Thank you God that this is Your idea and Your process for me. It works. It is always the right path.