People are going to break your heart.
Recently I wrote this in a letter to my son who is in prison,
“There is that stupid saying, “You only hurt the ones you love.” It is overused and misused. But the truth of it is you get hurt by the ones you love because you keep making yourselves vulnerable to them because you love them. We will get through this. I know it.“
We don’t think kindness requires bravery because kindness is a behavior we learned back in kindergarten. It is a simple behavior all humans should extend. It is a behavior that affects and blesses everyone around you. Kindness should be a part of anyone’s Christian walk. It should be a fruit of your life.
But to bless someone, give to someone, extend yourself to someone has the inherent risk that your heart will be broken. You can’t simply show kindness to someone, particularly a vulnerable someone, without your heart being attached to it. Unless you are that cold of a person.
Here is a wow truth about kindness. This is from a Philip Yancey book, The Question That Never Goes Away. That question, of course, is why. We all have why questions. Here is the wow thought from p. 53:
“The anthropologist Margaret Mead used to ask her lecture audiences, ‘What would you say is the earliest sign of civilization?’ She would field such replies such as ‘a clay pot’ or ‘tools made of iron’ or ‘the first domesticated plant.’ Then she would say, ‘Here is my answer,’ and hold up a human femur, the largest bone in the leg, pointing to a thickened area where the bone had healed after a fracture.
“As Mead observed, ‘Such signs of healing are never found among the remains of the earliest, fiercest societies. In their skeletons we find clues of violence: a rib pierced by an arrow, a skull crushed by a club. But this healed bone shows that someone must have cared for the injured person–hunted on his behalf, brought him food, served him at personal sacrifice. Contrary to nature’s rule of “survival of the fittest,” we humans measure civilization by how we respond to the most vulnerable and the suffering.'”
Oh wow. Kindness civilized us. God is seen when we respond to the most vulnerable and the suffering.
The first person who cared for someone with a broken leg was brave. That’s all that kindness was.
There was sacrifice and entering into that person’s pain and time given. When you extend kindness to someone, particularly a vulnerable someone, you have to extend a part of you too. And sometimes, too often, those vulnerable ones will turn around and disappoint you. Break your heart. Keep falling into that same hole.
Yet we are still called to extend kindness.
Think of some of the most giving people in your life. You’ve watched them pour their lives out time and time again. Probably poured out some into you. And you admire them. You love them. Those giving people are choosing the risk of disappointment just for the sake of being kind. How do they do that? How can you do that?
God shows himself when we respond to the most vulnerable and the suffering. These people you admire know God in a way you have never dared to know God…yet. You have your reasons as to why you have kept God at a safe distance from your real life. Or have kept your faith in God in a safe box. When you dare to think about it, it is all because you want some control over your faith. You’ve been disappointed by God but are not ready to completely walk away from your faith. To enter into the tension of those doubts in God or the pain of the disappointment in God simply scares you. To remove yourself from this vulnerability by having a safe relationship with God is easier, and you are still going to heaven. That is enough.
This safe faith also affects your kindness to others. Oh you are kind…in safe situations. You do the right and good things. But you find excuses to steer out of showing kindness to the vulnerable. In your desire to control your faith you even miss seeing the vulnerable in your life. You miss those Holy Spirit promptings. You miss the things you could do to civilize us all. Even as you are a “good person.”
Suddenly kindness has become more than a learned kindergarten behavior, huh? The challenge is now there. The holy tension is now given to you.
“You only hurt the ones you love.” This is the risk your growing brave faith is going to have to face. Are you willing?