Kindness is mandatory, at least from a Christian perspective. As one of my favorite Christian bloggers pointed out, love is a commandment, not an option. It’s not a suggestion, an option, or an ideal. It’s the greatest commandment of all, love one another. One way love takes form is through kindness, basic courtesy, how we treat other humans.
This is actually not such a simple thing. I’ll go so far as to say it may be one of the most challenging things one is called to do. A bit of wry humor here, but I remember when God pointed out that to love Christ means to also love His people. I thought, you have got to be kidding me! Have you met the people, Lord? Do you have any idea what they are like??
When they aren’t outright trying to pick pieces of flesh off what’s left of your carcass, they’re cutting you off in traffic, stealing your stuff, trying to project their own issues onto you. Dealing with people is not for the faint of heart, ask anybody who has worked in retail sales. People who work with the general public should get hazard pay.
A whole lot of people are not very loveable. I don’t want to try to be kind to many of them, I want to flee in terror. Just back away slowly and leave them to their misery. You have to just walk away sometimes, but in general we really are called to love one another, even the unloveable.
Someone sent me a really good question, how do you honor somebody you don’t respect anymore? It was about a spouse. Such a good question and really profoundly difficult. The answer is, you don’t. The opposite of respect is usually contempt. If you hold somebody in contempt, attempting to honor them is nearly impossible. If you’re looking at somebody with resentment and hostility, nothing in your heart is going to lead you anywhere near love and honor.
There is good news, however. You can work on forgiveness, build some empathy, try to relate to someone’s higher self rather than their behavior. Try to perceive them as God sees them, as their potential, as who they were intended to be. God sees each one of us through Christ’s eyes, as someone so loved and treasured we were worth dying for.
If there are big issues like violence or addiction or abuse, sometimes you just have to walk away. You have worth and value too, and no one is called to sacrifice their own selves trying to save someone else. Christ already did that, He laid down His life so that all would have salvation. People already have access to a Savior, you need not martyr yourself for someone else.
From the question however, I did not get that impression. I got the impression of resentment and contempt, the challenge of trying to honor somebody you have lost respect for. What you do is try to see them through God’s eyes. You try to focus more on yourself, to love and honor somebody else is really about you, the words you speak over others you will speak over yourself. It’s not really about them, it is about us and our relationship with God. We honor God, we seek His favor, not the approval of others. So to honor somebody else is not really about them and their worthiness at all, it is about honoring our own selves and honoring God.
Here is where kindness comes in. It’s the fake it until you make it principle. You have to swallow a lot of pride, but sometimes practicing basic good manners, the formality of saying “please” and “thank you” and “you’re welcome,” can go a long way. We tend to treat strangers with respect, but show our worst to our spouses. The simple act of speaking kind words over another can help to place them in your mind as someone worthy of your respect.
These are not simple issues and I hope this doesn’t sound like a lecture. Myself, I often struggle with the challenge of resisting the urge to pitch tea cups at people’s heads or flip them off in traffic. I have been known to snap at my own husband many times. Kindness however, is mandatory and to love one another is a commandment.