Thursday, February 5, 2015

Throwing Kindness Around Like Confetti...The Real Life Struggle

 At the start of the year, I mentioned that one of my goals for 2015 was to be more intentional in practicing kindness and I used the oft-quoted "Throw Kindness Around Like Confetti" (I wish I came up with that) to express what I meant.

Well, while pondering this fun, colorful, easy sounding analogy a little more recently, I came to the realization that there are moments when being kind is actually hard. In fact, to be very real with you, there are moments when I purposefully withhold kindness. I know we all do this at one point or another, but for me, it's usually for one of the following reasons:

1. To demonstrate displeasure with someone
    2. To discourage friendship with a person I don't really like
    3. To honor my ill-founded fear of offending or embarrassing 
    4. To avoid drawing attention to myself

    I am in no way saying that any of these "reasons" are acceptable, they're all pretty stupid. And yet I know I'm not the only one who finds herself switching kindness on and off like an electric light whenever it suits her. How do we make changes? What do we need to guard against in order to live life like a "thrower of kindness"?

    To address the first one listed, withholding kindness as a means of demonstrating displeasure with someone... I feel that we most often do this with the people we're closest to. When we aren't getting what we want or we're waiting for an apology, we shut off kindness so that the object of our disapproval will read us LOUD AND CLEAR.

    Not only is this tactic unproductive and manipulative, it's hypocritical. The fact that we receive kindness from a holy God who has every right to turn His back on sinners like us, makes it impossible for us to do anything but pass it on to others. In the moments when we're screaming or fuming, the only godly response is to throw handfuls of kindness in the face of negative feelings, allowing it to calm harmful emotions so that good communication can heal our relationships.


    The other three things listed are focused on withholding kindness from people we're probably not close to for two primary reasons: arrogance or insecurity.

    This may be a good time for me to describe what "throwing kindness like confetti" looks like to me. I don't picture someone running through a public place blowing kisses and screaming compliments (avoid a person doing that). When we talk about throwing something it sounds very active, but throwing confetti usually just means allowing all the hundreds of little colored papers you've tossed in the air to land anywhere and everywhere. The people that are difficult to like, the people we forget to notice, the people we're too insecure to interact with...they all require kindness, and it should flow from us in such a concentrated abundance that it lands on them all, without discrimination.

    We all want to ignore needy, awkward or inappropriate humans, but they're still humans and we're still called to love them. We all want to keep from embarrassing ourselves in front of admirable, impressive and likeable humans, and yet they're still people who need kindness regardless of our fears and insecurities. We should swallow our own selfish concerns either way. If we trust and obey God, we'll follow through with his command to be kind and allow whatever will come of those relationships to come.

    Personal Example: 
    This is a pretty tame example, but it's stuck with me, nonetheless...Years ago, I participated in a local production of the Nutcracker. I had not taken ballet for years, so I auditioned for and got the role of one of the "party moms" in the opening scene (I can at least waltz). The ballet studio was a pretty worldly place to be and I was mostly working alongside older adults, including one gentleman who was nice but a little uncomfortable to be around. After one inappropriate joke too many, I responded to him with an eye roll, a sneer and a pretty condescending facial expression. I can still remember his response because no one had ever seriously called me a snob before. I look back on that now with regret because while I didn't have to laugh at inappropriate jokes, I doubt that man felt the love and grace I am tasked to cover sins with as a Christ representative. Missed kindnesses are also missed opportunities to witness and represent Him.

     There are probably people out there who see the "Throw Kindness Around Like Confetti" mantra and think, "this is for those extroverted people who always know what to say and when to say it" or "I'm just not good at doing anything involving the word 'confetti.'" I read an article last summer on a study done by John and Julie Gottman, marital stability experts in New York City, who studied how lack of kindness is one of the biggest reasons why couples break apart. (Read the article, it goes into great depth on the different ways we ask for kindness and respond to one another, and it really made an impact on me.) In it Gottman says, "There are two ways to think about kindness. You can think about it as a fixed trait: either you have it or you don't. Or you could think of kindness as a muscle. In some people that muscle is naturally stronger than in others, but it can grow stronger in everyone with exercise." Those words give us all hope that the incorrect responses in our hearts can be turned around with commitment. And with practice, ALL OF US can consistently offer kind words, small gifts, smiles of encouragement, generous attitudes, and peacemaking ideas to the people around us.

    The bottom line for this little phrase "Throw Kindness Around Like Confetti" is that kindness should be the cheapest thing in the world. It should be as easy to come by as paper. For 2015 I'm going to be busy trying to spread and reflect His kindness and generosity to every human that comes across my path. 

    Do you have any thoughts on this topic? Are you also striving to make this a part of your thought process? Tell me. :)

    What God says about Kindness:

    Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. -Ephesians 4:32

    Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up. - Proverbs 12:25

    But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. - Luke 6:35

    Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” -Acts 14:17

    Though the Lord is exalted, he looks kindly on the lowly; though lofty, he sees them from afar. - Psalm 138:6


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