Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Kindness and Forgiveness: The Greatest Gifts

I've been thinking about this blog post for a long time, wondering how to put my feelings into words or how to write about something I know I still have a great deal to learn about.  It's December.  Another Christmas season is upon us.  Many people have been gearing up and gathering presents for months in preparation for Christmas day.  (I must confess, I am not one of those forward-thinking people.)  The stores start earlier and earlier with advertising, deals, and other incentives to get us to but the perfect gifts for our loved ones.  But can the greatest gifts be purchased?

In my mind, the best gift is one which your loved one could not or would not get for himself/herself.  A person can buy the perfect shirt, or the perfect CD for herself.  While it's true that we can/should be kind to ourselves, it's a completely different thing than receiving a kindness from another person.  What it the only gifts we were allowed to give this Christmas were the actual things we have in our hearts, rather than all of the outward show?  What would be there under the tree?

I would venture to say the greatest gift is to be kind to a person who has not been kind to you, to continue to forgive someone who has completely spurned your attempts at forgiveness and reconciliation.  To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, to love someone you like is easy.  There is no virtue in that.  But to love someone it is difficult to love, therein lies the virtue.

But don't let us be kind out of obligation or duty.  That is not true kindness and will feel false to the one receiving it, like a knock off of the original.  Ephesians 4:32 tells us, "And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."  But the kindness and forgiveness must be genuine and borne of the love of God within us.  It can't just be outward show.

What if the other person won't forgive or accept forgiveness?

It is extremely difficult and painful to continue to be kind and forgiving to someone who perpetually feeds a grudge or widens a rift between you with more offenses.  Although we've been counseled to turn the other cheek, I am not suggesting that you repeatedly throw your face in front of someone's fist.  Nor am I suggesting that you try to force a friendship on someone who may not want it for whatever reason.  I am simply asking the question, what would it look like if you met someone's cruelty or meanness with kindness?

Joseph B. Whirthlin has said, "kind ness is the essence of greatness and the fundamental characteristic of the noblest men and women I have known.  Kindness is a passport that opens doors and fashions friends.  It softens hearts and molds relationships that can last lifetimes."

What if you could gain or regain a friendship just by enduring in kindness?

"We cannot tell the precise moment when friendship is formed.  AS in filling a vessel drop by drop, there is at last a drop which makes it run over; so in a series of kindnesses there is at last one which makes the heart run over." ~James Boswell

So, while we're rushing around this Christmas season, getting the decorations, food, and last minute gifts, don't forget to bring the gifts you have within you to those you love: your kindest thought, the benefit of the doubt, understanding, patience, and forgiveness.

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