Cultivating Kindness in the Midst of Self-Sufficiency
Here's an inspiring portion from a book I'm currently reading, "Life on the Vine".
"Listening to one another. If Christians truly are to function as the body of Christ, we will need to foster stronger and more intimate connections with each other. To do this, we will need to learn to listen. Listening to each other will be greatly facilitated by our no longer viewing each other as threats to our well-being. Within the dominant culture that emphasizes self-sufficiency and autonomy, there is little reason for us to listen to each other. Why should I listen to you? I don't want to hear about the good things that have happened in your life; they just make me more depressed about my own lack of accomplishment. I don't want to listen to your problems; I have my own. Nor do I care to listen to your advice or admonition; I can take care of my own problems by myself.
But once we are given eyes to see each other as gifts rather than as threats, listening to each other becomes vitally important for our life together. I need to learn to take appropriate pride in your accomplishments, and you in mine, because we realize that neither of us have done this on our own. I need to listen carefully to your problems, for as a fellow member of the body of Christ your problems are my problems. Similarly, I need to be willing to share my problems as well, since learning to receive acts of kindness graciously is also central to our identity as the body of Christ. Finally, I need to learn to receive your advice or admonishment not as a threat to my self-sufficiency and autonomy but as a gift of God for my own well-being and thus for the well-being of the entire body. Do I really believe that I can learn to hear the voice of God when I cannot even bring myself to listen to the voice of my brother or sister? Even more to the point, is there not plenty of scriptural precedent for a word of God coming through the voice of another person?...
...In the final analysis this lack of genuine other-directedness may be the primary limitation of "random acts of kindness." Too often such acts encourage me to do little more than create opportunities for me to feel good about having done something "kind" for somebody else, regardless of what they really needed. Such acts usually demand little of me--no listening, no discerning what is needed and no time-consuming involvement with another person's life. Similarly, such acts neither create nor sustain any long-term relationship; the anonymity of my action coupled with its randomness guarantees that. Instead, I enjoy a certain "buzz" from having done something unusual and unexpected. To the degree to which such acts draw me out of my everyday preoccupation with myself in order to attend to the lives of other people, we might identify such acts as either precursors to acts of kindness or as a kind of dwarf species of kindness. However, to the degree to which such acts continue to place my own ego and its desire for attention and "strokes" at the center, we would be more honest to identify such fruit as stemming from some other spirit than that which animated the life and ministry of Jesus Christ."
Being perfectly honest, I have always loved random acts of kindness--a kind anonymous note, paying for the person behind you in line, etc. But reading this convicted me that kindness is not a default setting we can turn off or no when we have an extra moment like quickly jotting a random note or finally deciding to listen to a friend for 5 minutes after a day of self focus.
It is a fruit of the spirit and I need to treat it like one giving it time and the effort it needs to mature into a delicious, juicy, delectable, tender, perfectly ripe peach, or whatever your favorite fruit is.