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Be Kind to Ourselves and Others
God knows us and our character, yet He is kind to us. How? He loves us unconditionally. He created us out of love and recreates us again and again out of mercy. He forgives us when we repent. And since he is so kind to us, can’t we be a little kinder to ourselves? Why don’t we be kinder to ourselves? We judge ourselves too harshly because we do not meet our own expectation or the expectation of others. We berate ourselves. Often we run ourselves down. Our lives are filled with disappointments and regrets. We may think that: “You don’t know my faults and my thoughts. You don’t know the gripes I grumble and the complaints I mumble.” No, we don’t, but God does. He knows everything about us, yet He doesn’t hold back His kindness towards us. Has God, knowing all our secrets, retracted one promise or reclaimed one gift from us?
No, God is kind to us. Why don’t we be kind to ourselves? He forgives our faults. Why don’t we do the same? He thinks tomorrow is worth living. Why don’t we agree and treat tomorrow as a new day? He believes in us, enough to call us His ambassadors, His followers, even His beloved children. Why not take His cue and believe in ourselves?
God thinks we are worth His kindness. So be kind to ourselves and others.
We tend to forget that kindness is love put into practice in our everyday living. Often, we forget to practice kindness in our own family. How so? We are being kind in the family when, without being asked, we:
· Help in the cooking
· Clear the table
· Wash up after the meals
· Vacuum the room
· Hang up the washing
· Take down the dried clothes
· Iron the clothing
· Make the coffee
· Cover your siblings with blanket in cold nights
· Readily give up your favourite TV program
· Share the computer
· Give a listening ear, etc
Henri Nouwen tells us, “Being kind is a human attribute. When we say, ‘She is a kind person’ or ‘He surely was kind to me,’ we express a very warm feeling. In our competitive and often violent world, kindness is not the most frequent response. But when we encounter it we know that we are blessed. Is it possible to grow in kindness, to become a kind person? Yes, but it requires discipline. To be kind means to treat another person as your ‘kin,’ your intimate relative. We say, ‘We are kin’ or ‘He is next to kin.’ To be kind is to reach out to someone as being of ‘kindred’ spirit.
Here is the great challenge. All people, whatever their color, religion, or sex, belong to humankind and are called to be kind to one another, treating one another as brothers and sisters. There is hardly a day in our lives in which we are not called to this.” (Bread for the Journey, Feb 4)
Yes, all of us are called to be kind and to bless the people we meet, so we need to remind ourselves:
Am I kind to the harassed check-out cashier who makes mistakes in my bill at the supermarket?
Am I kind to others?
Am I kind to myself?
Can I be kind to someone who keeps interrupting me when I am at the computer doing something I want completed?
Am I gentle to displeasing people?
Am I tender-hearted or is my heart hard like stone?
Do I have to wound with words of retaliation instead of being kind?
When I am insulted do I answer back with kind words? St Paul says that, “when we are insulted, we answer back with kind words.” (1 Corinthians 4:13 TEV)
Since all Christians are challenged to be kind to people, how do we show kindness? Kindness shows itself by being compassionate, generous, gracious and friendly.
A kind word uplifts the down-hearted and the discouraged. A kind word is often sufficient to make a sad person smile. A kind person strives to make others happy. He seeks to ease another person’s pain or to soothe another person’s anxieties, fears or anger. He extends to others the glad hand of friendship. He shares their concerns and their sufferings. He listens patiently. Kindness is goodwill towards others. So do I hasten to search out his virtues whenever I happen to see his faults? Remember, there is no happiness like that of a person whose heart is filled with goodwill towards others.
A kind heart is a generous heart. A kind hearted person is generous with his time, money, advice and knowledge. His generosity is kind:
o when he does it sensitively---done with great consideration for the dignity and the feelings of the recipient.
o when he does it unselfishly—--done not to seek publicity, praise or rewards in return
o when he does it delicately---done privately and not to be seen by others
St Paul reminds us that, “Whoever shares with others should do it generously; whoever has authority should work hard; whoever shows kindness to others should do it cheerfully.” (Romans 12:8 TEV)
One thing a kind person must avoid is to hurt others with his criticism and sick jokes.
We should never be afraid to be kind as kindness will do us no harm, brings us no bitterness and cause us no regrets.
Here is what Mother Teresa says about kindness:
“We can love the leper, the one with the broken and disfigured face, but we forget to love our sister when she is proud or impatient. We forget that it is only a distressing disguise, that the person is really Jesus. We do not have undivided love for Christ but, instead, we let the devil trick us with the distressing disguise. We must be holy. We must be able to see Jesus in our sisters and in the poor.” (A Life for God, 63)
“Be kind in your actions. Do not think you are the only one who can do the efficient work, work worth showing. This makes you harsh in your judgment of others who may not have the same talents. God will ask of that sister only what He has given her, and not what He has given you; so why interfere with the plan of God? All things are His, and He gives as He pleases. You do your best and think that others do their best for God’s own purpose. Their best may be a total failure—--what is that to you? You follow the way He has chosen for you. For others also, let Him choose.” (A Life for God, 66)
“If sometimes we feel as if the Master is away, is it not because we have kept ourselves far from someone? One thing will always secure heaven for us: acts of charity and kindness with which we have filled our lives. We will never know how much good just a simple smile can do. We tell people how kind, forgiving, and understanding God is—--are we the living proof? Can they really see this kindness, this forgiveness, this understanding, alive in us?” (A Life for God, 65)
“Be kind, very kind, to the suffering poor. We little realize what they go through. The most difficult part is the feeling of not being wanted. This is the first hardship a leper experiences even today. Show your love for them by being very kind—--act kindly, speak kindly. I prefer our Sisters to make mistakes through kindness than to work miracles through harshness and unkindness.” (Contemplative at the Heart of the World, 116)
“Holiness grows so fast where there is kindness. I have never heard of kind souls going astray. The world is lost for want of sweetness and kindness. In religious houses this kindness is in greater danger, for we have grown so much used to each other that some think they are free to say anything to anybody at any time. They expect the other sisters to bear with their unkindness. Why not try first to put a brake on your own tongue? You know what you can do, but you do not know how much the other can bear. Why not give the chance of holiness to yourself first? Your holiness will be of greater help to your sisters than the chance you give her to put up with your unkindness.” (A Life for God, 78)
“The sister must have one thing clear: there is a soul to save, a soul to bring to God. The sister has to be extremely kind and gentle; in touch of hand, in tone of voice, in her smile—--for the work is very delicate. Nirmal Hriday (a hospital run by the Missionaries of Charity) is a treasure house; so is every hospital. An unkind word or look is enough to spoil the work. Such perfection of charity is not in us but we must acquire it—--kindness in action. You will not learn kindness by looking after sick people unless you practice it on healthy people, because the sick are often trying and hard to please.” (A Life for God, 99)
“Love each other as God loves each one of you, with an intense and particular love. Be kind to each other: it is better to commit faults with gentleness than to work miracles with unkindness.” (A Life for God, 255)
“Not even God can fill what is already full. Hence we have to empty our hearts in order to allow him to fill us with his love and with his kindness.” (A Life for God, 252)
“Be kind and merciful. Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be a living expression of God’s kindness:
kindness in your face,
kindness in your eyes,
kindness in your smile,
kindness in your warm greeting.
To children, to the poor, to all who suffer and are lonely, give always a happy smile. Give them not only your care, but also your heart.” (The Joy in Loving, 2 September)
“It is better to make mistake in kindness than to work miracles with unkindness. It is very important to be kind to ourselves and control ourselves by keeping our balance. If we want to live in peace and harmony with each other we must pay attention to our tongue. Especially when we deal with the poor we must be very careful in talking to them.” (The Joy in Loving, 18 October)
“Be the living expression of God’s kindness;
kindness in your eyes,
kindness in your face,
kindness in your smiles,
kindness in your warm greetings.
We are all but His instruments who do our little bit and pass by. I believe that the way in which an act of kindness is done is as important as the action itself.” (The Joy in Loving, 13 April)
Here is how Max Lucado explains about kindness,
“Later in the day a woman came by. Middle aged. Hair streaked with grey and pulled back. Dress was simple. Reminded me of a middle-school librarian. Face was wrinkled and earnest. Said she’d been sick for a dozen years. HIV positive.
‘That’s a long time,’ I said.
Long enough, she agreed, to run out of doctors, money, even hope. But worst of all, she had run out of friends. ‘They were afraid of me,’ she said. ‘Worried about catching the disease. My church hadn’t turned me out, but they hadn’t helped me out either. I hadn’t been home in years. Been living in a shelter. But then Jesus came to town. He was on his way to treat the mayor’s daughter, who was dying. The crowd was thick, and people were pushing, but I was desperate.’
She spoke of following Jesus at a distance. Then she drew near and stepped back for fear of being recognized. She told of inching behind a broad-shouldered man and staying in his wake until, as she said, ‘There were only two people between him and me. I pressed my arm through the mob and reached for the hem of his jacket. Not to grab, just to touch it. And when I did, my body changed. Instantly. My face rushed with warmth. I could breathe deeply. My back seemed to straighten. I stopped, letting the people push past. He stopped too. ‘Who touched me?’ he asked. I slid behind the big man again and said nothing. As he and the crowd waited, my heart pounded. From the healing? From fear? From both? I didn’t know. Then he asked again, ‘Who touched me?’ He didn’t sound angry—--just curious. So I spoke up. My voice shook; so did my hands. The big man stepped away. Jesus stepped forward, and I told the whole story.’
‘The whole story?’ I asked.
‘The whole story,’ she replied.
I tried to imagine the moment. Everyone waiting as Jesus listened. The crowd waiting. The city leaders waiting. A girl was dying, people were pressing, disciples were questioning, but Jesus . . . Jesus was listening. Listening to the whole story. He didn’t have to. The healing would have been enough. Enough for her. Enough for the crowd. But not enough for him. Jesus wanted to do more than heal her body. He wanted to hear her story—--all of it. The whole story. What a kind thing to do. The miracle restored her health. The kindness restored her dignity
And what he did next, the woman never forgot. ‘As if he hadn’t done enough already’—--her eyes began to water---‘he called me ‘daughter.’ ‘Daughter, be of good cheer; your faith has made you well. Go in peace.’ I’ve been told he never used that word with anyone else. Just me.’
After she left, I checked. She was right.
The kindness of Jesus. We are quick to think of his power, his passion, and his devotion. But those near him knew and know God comes cloaked in kindness. Kind enough to care about a faux pas. Kind enough to have lunch with a crook. Kind enough to bless a suffering sister.”
. . . . .
“Jesus’ invitation offers the sweetest proof of the kindness of heaven:
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. (Matthew 11:28—30 NKJV)
Farmers in ancient Israel used to train an inexperienced ox by yoking it to an experienced one with a wooden harness. The straps around the older animal were tightly drawn. He carried the load. But the yoke around the younger animal was loose. He walked alongside the more mature ox, but his burden was light. In this verse Jesus is saying, ‘I walk alongside you. We are yoked together. But I pull the weight and carry the burden.’
I wonder, how many burdens is Jesus carrying for us that we know nothing about? We’re aware of some. He carries our sin. He carries our shame. He carries our eternal debt. But are there others? Has he lifted fears before we felt them? Has he carried our confusion so we wouldn’t have to? Those times when we have been surprised by our own sense of peace? Could it be that Jesus has lifted our anxiety onto his shoulders and placed a yoke of kindness on ours?
And how often do we thank him for his kindness? Not often enough. But does our ingratitude restrict his kindness? No. ‘Because he is kind even to people who are ungrateful and full of sin’ (Luke 6:35).” (A love worth giving, 25-26, 27)
The following passages are taken from the book, “Our Lady says: Love People” by Rev. Albert Joseph Mary Shamon.
Love Is Kind (1 Corinthians 13:4)
Our Lord said, Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart” (Matt. 11:29).
Gentleness expresses itself passively by patience and actively by kindness.
Patience puts up with afflicters; kindness reaches out to the afflicted. Both virtues are the fruit of the Holy Spirit—--the products of His work in our souls (Galatians 5:22).
Perhaps no virtue is so winsome as kindness, Every body loves a kind person. A smile, a kind word, a helping hand—--these can draw a person to religion more surely than an eloquent homily. The heart of Quasimodo, the hunchback of Notre Dame, was won by an act of kindness, a drink of water, given him by the gypsy girl Esmeralda.
St. John Bosco, the founder of the first Boys Town, based his Salesian system of education on what he called the “Preventive” System. Like a three-legged stool, the Preventive System was built on reason, religion and kindness. Don Bosco believed the adage: A drop of honey can attract more flies than a barrel of vinegar.
For the wellsprings of kindness are esteem and sympathy. An act of kindness says, “I think a lot of you. I care about you.”
St. Jerome called kindness “the benignity of love.’’ Benignity is a word worth tearing apart, because it can shed wonderful light on what kindness is. According to some dictionaries, benignity is made up of two Latin words: bene meaning well; and ignis meaning fire. Benignity means being on fire to do well for others. That is not a bad definition for kindness.
Kindness is goodwill toward others. It seeks to ease another’s pain or to soothe another’s anxieties, fears or anger. It positively strives to make others happy. Isn’t that wonderful? And what a wonderful world this would be if everybody were just kind!
Kindness is a characteristic of God. The Psalmist wrote: “The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness. The Lord is good to all and compassionate toward all his works” (Psalms 145:8-9). God’s sole concern in sending His Son to earth was to eliminate suffering and bring joy. How accurate are the words of the Christmas carol: “Loving-kindness shed abroad at Christmas.” The Incarnation was an act of God’s kindness: love stooping down to lift up.
The entire life of Christ can be summed up in the one word “kindness.” Jesus was the kindest person Who ever walked this earth. When the sick were brought to Him, He healed them. When lepers came to Him, He cleansed them. He wept over the dead and restored them to life. He multiplied loaves and fish to feed the hungry. He did not spurn the tears of Magdalen nor the woman caught in adultery. He was moved by Peter’s tears and the penitent thief’s prayer. In His Passion He spoke only three times—--to help. After that, He remained silent rather than become unkind. On the cross, His first words were, “Father, forgive them.” His final act was to die that He might send us His Spirit to give us patience, kindness, and generosity (Galatians 5:22).
When Our Lord’s kindness was attacked in the seventeenth century by the Jansenists, He appeared to the Visitation nun, St. Margaret Mary, and showed her His heart, burning with love for all. Our Lord told Margaret Mary, “Behold the heart which has loved mankind so much.” So that mankind should never again forget His loving kindness, He asked that the Feast of the Sacred Heart be instituted in the Church. And it has been, the Friday after Corpus Christi.
The Sacred Heart is a heart of love. A loving heart is a kind heart. Love is kind. Thus whenever we are kind to others, we are most like Christ.
Kindness manifests itself in four ways: by compassion, generosity, graciousness and friendliness.
Compassion was the first thing that God put into our hearts to make them most like His. A kind face cheers the sad. A kind word uplifts the discouraged. A kind act removes fear on the part of someone who might feel all alone. Such compassionate kindness makes life worth living—--makes a Heaven of earth.
A kind heart is also a generous heart. And generosity is kind when it is delicate: not done to be seen by others; when it is unselfish: not to seek anything in return; and when it is sensitive: considerate of the dignity and feelings of the recipient.
In The Vision of Sir Launfal, when Sir Launfal starts out on his quest on a bright day in June, he meets a leper begging at his castle gate. “This blot on the landscape” causes Sir Launfal to cringe in loathing. Yet from a sense of duty, he tosses him a piece of gold in scorn. The leper did not pick it up from the dust. “Better to me the poor man’s crust,” said the leper.
‘Better the blessing of the poor,
Though I turn me empty from his door;
That is no true alms which the hand can hold;
He gives nothing but worthless gold
Who gives but to give.”
What counts is—--
“Not what we give, but what we share,
For the gift without the giver is bare;
Who gives himself with his alms feeds three—--
Himself, his hungering neighbor, and Me.”
True kindness is gracious. Graciousness implies courtesy, consideration toward the feelings of others; it is the salt that flavors generosity. St. Francis de Sales always wore a smile and his face always shone with a love that colored all his words and acts. St. Vincent de Paul declared that he had never met a kinder man in all his life than Francis de Sales. Even God loves a cheerful giver.
In The House of the Seven Gables, the street corner philosopher, Uncle Venner, gave Hepzibah this advice on making her penny store a success: “Put on a bright face for your customers, and smile pleasantly as you hand them what they ask for! A stale article, if you dip it in a good, warm, sunny smile, will go off better than a fresh one that you’ve scowled upon.”
Finally, a kind heart is a friendly heart. Kindness means being a friend. One of the great pains of modern people is loneliness, to be friendless. It is the difference between an empty house and a home filled with loving people. Jesus came to call us friends. He shared with us all that He heard from the Father (John 15:15). One greatest act of kindness is to extend to others the glad hand of friendship to share with them.
The true friend develops a genuine interest in others and their concerns. The true friend is thoughtful—--remembers special dates with a drop-in or a card. The true friend is loyal, sensitive to moods, sympathetic and grateful.
One thing the kind avoid is criticism and jokes that hurt other people. Francis de Sales felt about the short comings of another as that other felt about his own short comings. He always gave the best interpretation. We may be mistaken, but ten thousand mistakes are better than one rash judgment; for mistakes are not sins, rash judgments are. Ben Johnson, England’s first Poet Laurette, gave a good piece of advice when he said: “God defers His judgment till Judgment Day; let us do likewise.” We are so ready to excuse ourselves, let us not be so ready to accuse our neighbor.
If we could only see the way he came,
With all its jagged rocks and crooked ways,
We might more kindly think of his mistakes,
And only praise.
If we could know the heartaches he has felt,
The longings for the things that never came,
We would not misconstrue his erring them,
Nor even blame.
Kindness is a double blessing: it blesses him who gives and him who receives. There is no happiness like that of a person whose heart is filled with good will toward others. And there is no joy like that of a person who feels he is esteemed and loved by another.
After Portia had saved the Merchant of Venice’s life, and she and Nerissa were returning home, she saw a candle lit in a window, put there by her servants to light her way home. Pointing to the light, Portia said to Nerissa: “How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a naughty world.”
Make up your mind to be kind. Then encourage every feeling of good will toward your neighbor. Do not listen to criticism nor give in to harshness.
Francis de Sales, the gentleman saint, and St. Vincent de Paul, the apostle of charity, both prayed long and hard to get rid of harshness and ungraciousness. For unkind feelings, unexplainable aversions, baseless jealousies, sudden fits of anger, surface when we least expect them—--for these are the weeds of our fallen nature.
One of the greatest sources of kindness is the Sacrament of Love, the Holy Eucharist. Love has to be put into us, as we put gasoline into our car. And this sacrament is the service station of love. Gradually, communion with Christ will make us Christlike—--loving and kind persons. Where Christ is most present, man is most humanized; where Christ is most absent, man is most brutalized.
Kindness pays even here and now. If ever you go to the Thousand Islands, in upper New York State, you will visit Boldt’s Castle. It was built by George Boldt for his wife. George Boldt was a night clerk in a third class hotel in Philadelphia. One night two tired elderly people came into his hotel and pleaded, “Mister, please don’t tell us you don’t have a room. My wife and I have been all over the city looking for a place to stay. We did not know about the big conventions that are here. The hotels at which we usually stay are all full. We’re dead tired and it’s after midnight. Please don’t tell us you don’t have a place where we can sleep.”
The clerk looked at them a long moment and then answered, “Well, I don’t have a single room except my own. I work at night and sleep in the daytime. It’s not as nice as the other rooms, but it’s clean, and I’ll be happy for you to be my guests for, tonight.”
The wife said, “God bless you, young man.”
The next morning at the breakfast table, the couple sent the waiter to tell the night clerk they wanted to see him on very important business. The night clerk went in, recognized the two people and said he hoped they had had a good night’s sleep. They thanked him most sincerely. Then the husband astounded the clerk with this statement, “You are too fine a hotel man to stay in a hotel like this. How would you like for me to build a big, beautiful, luxurious hotel in the city of New York and make you general manager?”
The clerk didn’t know what to say. Naturally, he thought there might be something wrong with their minds. He finally stammered, “It sounds wonderful.” His guest then introduced himself. “I’m John Jacob Astor.”
Within two years, Astor built the Waldorf Astoria Hotel and the night clerk became, in the years to follow, the best known hotel man in the world.
In 1976, the 47-story Waldorf Astoria in New York City had served three-quarters of a million guests in its 1,900 rooms. George Boldt became a millionaire through an act of kindness.
Never fear to be kind. Kindness will do you no harm, cause you no regrets, bring you no bitterness. Kindness will make you most like God and will make the world a better place in which to live.
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