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Category: Thoughts

Seasons End

All seasons have their end. Farewells, good byes, and ends of times do not come easily though they may come fast and without warning. And perhaps not all conclusions are marred with grief. But, whether because the pain makes them seem stronger or there are more that are this way, the ones with pain so often scream louder.

It’s easier to close the book on the happy note than it is when the very words weep. It is not that hope has died or that the mourner believes this moment is the worst. Sometimes it is simply recognizing, appreciating, feeling the end and crying for what will no longer be. Crying for what might have been. Crying for all those possibilities.

Sometimes the sadness is there simply because what has ended was loved. A season has concluded. And when the new one opens, it may bring wonders anew and laughter that consoles the pain.

Doors close every day just as new ones open. But sometimes you’re in a hall, and you know the door is ahead, but you have no idea what it will open upon or even when. And sometimes it may not open for quite awhile though you hear the clicks and bangs of doors in other halls swinging wide. What matters is that one day the doors will open again, and this limbo of untetheredness may yet pass along with heartbreak and pain.

Is it wrong to weep or sob or grind your teeth in anger? When that which is good must pass away and the dreams you hold slip through your fingers, it would be stranger if you shed no tears even with your faith to hold you strong.

For just as seasons have their end, so too do they have their beginnings. And though the pain may swell and the agony endures, you know deep within that it will not always be this way. It cannot. It will not. It shall not. It won’t.

Mourning does not deny the joy that may yet come. When you mourn, your heart cries over the pain that has come and sometimes for the future ripped from hopeful hands.

It may not be as you envisioned. And if you cannot see now what the future holds as all you see is through a glass darkly, then that is where you believe and hope despite not knowing. The future and all of life cannot be taken in a single stride. Sometimes you can barely hold the heartbeat of a moment.

At times like these, your beliefs may seem stale and flavorless, cheap bread set out on a windowsill, unwanted even by the starlings and the grackles. You hold them close or sometimes loosely in the wellspring of your heart, not knowing, not understanding because sometimes the monotony of the pain and of the sorrow feels like it’s too much.

But in your heart you know…know what is true. This season ends, the doors are closed, but it will all begin anew. And this new season is not cursed, these new doors are not bolted. Different perhaps and possibly not precisely as you hope. Perhaps more, perhaps better. There is always that. But more importantly that which roots you, grounds you, anchors you will keep you from despair.

For now though, loose your tears and weep. You don’t have to be forever strong. And in the quiet of the hall, where all is locked and shut away, you are free to grieve so that when the doors swing open and light pours through, you can walk into that new day.

Even tragedies, grief, and pain come in seasons that must one day end. And if you need to sit and cry, then do. But know it shall not always be this way.

Of Those Who Abstain from Voting

survey-1594962Those who lost in the presidential election are eager to find shoulders on which to place the blame. While some have considered whether it was partially the DNC for choosing to back Hillary Clinton (even though now in hindsight they admit she was a weak candidate choice), others tend to lean toward two camps of scapegoats: those who abstained from voting and those who voted third-party.

I’ll cover third-party voters in another post. This one is going to focus on those who abstained from voting.

In the 2016 election, a little over 46% of American citizens did not vote.(Incidentally, it should also be noted that overall voter turnout, despite there being many new registered voters, was down this year as from previous general elections.)

The general assumption and condemnation thrown toward abstainers is that they don’t care about the country or are too lazy to participate or are morally degenerate. And sure, there may be some who don’t vote because they are apathetic, but I’ve actually found far more who have other reasons for not voting. And the majority of these individuals are not morally degenerate. They’re upstanding citizens who have their own perspective on our government and the voting process.

Voting is a right in this nation, not a duty. Some people claim that it is a moral duty and the responsibility of all those who live within this democratic republic, but there are legitimate reasons why some might choose to abstain and why it shouldn’t be condemned. In fact, it is actually just as much your right to not vote as it is your right to vote so long as you are the one who is making the decision.  

The importance of the ability to abstain has been confirmed to me in this election. Most people would agree, leading up to November 8, that there were two horrible choices (some people were rooting for a gigantic meteor to strike). And these are some of the reasons people might have chosen to abstain in this election and others.

Religious Tradition

Many religious traditions that prohibit voting do not just prohibit voting. They prohibit participation in most government forums and have done so for centuries. The reasons are many: 1) focuses should be on matters other than the physical world, 2) human governments are corrupt, 3) human governments sow division and discord, 4) governments cannot or will not promote complete pacifism, and so on.bible-428947

Many Christian traditions, from the Anabaptists to Seventh Day Adventists to the Doukhobors, likewise abstain from political involvement from voting to running for political office though each one has varying degrees. When I was researching this, I stumbled across this quote from John D. Roth, “Voting, after all, is not just a ‘right.’ It is also a ‘rite’ — a ritual of identity and loyalty binding the individual to the nation. Abstaining from presidential elections could signal to our children and to the global church that our first loyalty is to the worldwide fellowship of Christian believers, not to the nation-state.” This is a common refrain in various forms across the religious traditions. The need for internal consistency, conscientious integrity, and so on override government participation (even when that sometimes leads to their formal or informal persecution). While there are many sections in Scripture that these individuals rely on for their position, many return to John 18:36 with Jesus’s statement that His kingdom is not of this world” as well as his lack of overall political involvement. This has softened somewhat in recent years becoming more of a personal choice of conviction with some while with others such as the Amish it remains true.

Buddhism can also be interpreted to be against political involvement, at least for monks.  The Buddha said that monks should not speak about such things, suggesting that there are other more beneficial topics to consider.  But many do engage in politics so long as they can make informed decisions and their consciences are at ease (which is often not an easy matter to resolve). However, it is still a source of frequent conversation and a matter that is often brought up for reflection given the fact that the government does not reflect most Buddhist teachings.

Even Islam has discussions on this topic. While some Muslims insist that voting and participating in political processes is essential, others maintain that it is essentially a form of idolatry because it places human laws above the law of Allah. A number of these individuals point to Surah Tawbah 9:31 where those who revere rabbis and monks are actually committing a form of idolatry with their reverence.

In my brief research binge on religious traditions that abstain from voting, I found a number of others including early Rastafarianism, Shaykhism, Baha’i Faith, Taoists, and some segments of Usuli. I’m sure that there are others. These all appear to be rooted in the same motivations and butterfly-1717300_1920concerns: compassion, harmony, and conviction.

Also, it’s important to note that there are many agnostics and atheists who abstain from voting for similar reasons without requiring a religious or spiritual mandate. They are often pacifists who focus on what is similar rather than dissimilar, promoting harmony and civil discourse.

 

Note: I am not sure what percentage of those who abstained from voting falls  into these categories. I did ask a couple of my friends who do follow the “no voting” policy and “no government involvement” whether they register to vote and if so why but I did not get a response yet. If I do get a response and their permission to share it here, I’ll add that later.

For some this may be as simple as conversion after already being registered to vote.

Inability to Agree with Candidates

In some cases, even those who vote may find certain issues that are essentially dealbreakers. In this last election, there were many people who could not bring themselves to vote for either of the two major candidates and who were unwilling to vote for the third-parties either due to their beliefs about their ineffectiveness or lack of agreement on third-party stances as well.

These individuals see their votes as being an outright endorsement of the candidate’s beliefs and practices. Others do not, claiming things such as “lesser of two evils”and “pragmatism.” (In fact, one of the things that we are seeing in this election is a loud set of voices insisting this very thing, that all Trump voters believe what the media says Trump believes and all the things that Trump has said. It may be being said about Clinton voters, but I haven’t seen that one.) Total harmonious agreement is often not the case when it comes to conscience and politics. While some can parse out what they agree with, focus on those issues, and rearrange their priorities, others cannot.

Making Another Statement

Some people choose to refrain from voting to make a point. That point might be because they cannot support any of the candidates, because of the parties’ treatment of their constituencies, or because of general dissatisfaction with the state of the country. Now, you might be arguing that in all of these regards, voting would be the more productive method for enacting change but not from these people’s perspectives.

Such individuals tend to be quite pragmatic (at least the ones I know), and that extends to the apple-455436time that they invest in various causes or endeavors. If you believe that the government is irrevocably corrupt, you may not see any benefit in putting your time into the system. You may then put your time and efforts elsewhere. Often these individuals do make public the fact that they did not vote and why, which can be helpful for cultivating change.

Seeing their votes as not being counted may be another reason. This sometimes stems from a misunderstanding of what the electoral college does or an outright disagreement with it. But again, another conversation for another day.

Inability to Make an Informed Decision

Now by this, I don’t mean that these people are stupid. Far from it. But the voting process, whether on legislation or representatives, can be a difficult path to navigate if you want to be informed. Many are inclined to assume that they know everything about a situation and can cast an informed vote, but, if random interviews on the street are any indication of current political intelligence, that is not the case.

Becoming informed on key issues is quite the minefield that does take time. Bias exists everywhere along with misinformation and propaganda. Take this last election for example. If you have the time, go pull up media reports and stories from the opposing perspectives (definitely do not rely on the mainstream media for this). Look at the vastly different information being presented.

This disparity of perspective to reality is exceptionally jarring. Even as an involved voter who reads as much as she can get her hands on, I have to confess…sometimes I don’t know if I am making an informed decision, I’m just shooting in the dark and hoping I make the right call.

Not surprisingly, some people decide that they do not have time to make an informed decision…often because they do not have the time, and so, rather than risk making a situation worse, they abstain.

Anecdotally, one of the first that comes to my mind is a friend whose mother has Alzheimer’s. She cares for her mother while also teaching. I’ve offered to help how I can, but in our conversations, she’s admitted that she is just, at the moment, too emotionally exhausted to get involved. And that is all right. She is doing everything she can at the moment. Political involvement is not a requirement to be a good citizen/person/steward.no-1532842_1920

One Small Caveat

If you are someone who chooses to abstain from voting but publicly criticizes the government, it may be beneficial to explain why you abstain and what can still be done to impact the government or what you believe the steps should be. Otherwise, and perhaps even so, you may be accused of hypocrisy.

Concluding Thoughts

There are many reasons that almost half of American citizens did not vote, and it isn’t indefensible. The United States of America is a country that supposedly embraces many beliefs. And while it can be argued that the US cannot accept beliefs that are antithetical to its core, the decision to abstain from voting is  certainly not one of those.

The reality is that we cannot say for certain how those voters would have cast their votes if they had been compelled to vote against their consciences, priorities, and beliefs. But we cannot simply assume that those who did not vote simply did not care. They do not deserve to be blamed for following their convictions, nor should it be assumed that they are not valuable members of our society. If someone states that they didn’t vote just because they don’t care, by all means, politely engage and discuss the reasons. But abstention from voting is not proof that someone is bad, immoral, lazy, or apathetic.

Some Thoughts on the Election and Moving Forward

The election results are in, and to say that they took most by surprise would be as big an understatement as saying that 2016 has been a bizarre year.

Personally, I was not thrilled about either of our two primary candidates. (Part of me still wonders how it is that we reached this point, but that is another conversation for another day.) Since last night, I have received dozens of messages from people on all points of the political spectrum, many relaying fears and concerns. I’ve been thinking about these conversations and trying to break down what all this means.

I am a cynical idealist who chooses to be an optimist (though sometimes cynicism wins the day). I rely on my faith to give me hope, and, in fairness, I would probably be writing something similar if Hillary Clinton won with the exception of maybe a couple paragraphs. I don’t believe that the sky is falling nor do I believe that the world or even America is ending.

These are some thoughts on how we can move forward as a nation. (My apologies for the length. As Joan Didion said, “I write to know what I think.”)

If you don’t want to read all this, I understand, so the headings/overview is below:

  1. Abandon Fear
  2. Listen
  3. Act
  4. Grieve or Celebrate But Don’t Burn the Bridges
  5. Hold Assumptions Loosely
  6. Don’t Demonize the Independents
  7. Look for the Helpers
  8. The Burden is on Us (Regardless of Party or Voting Choice)
  9. Remain Aware and Active

Abandon Fear

We shouldn’t spread fear and terror, and we should be careful of the “what ifs.” (That includes what we tell our young children; they don’t need to bear all the burdens of the world though it is good to keep them informed.) Even if it should be revealed that we are right about that which we fear, what have we gained? Nothing. (Now this is not to say that we should do nothing or that in abandoning fear we become complacent, docile, or inactive, but more on that later.)

Fear is a natural response and an instinct to dangerous and unknown situations. In a survival situation such as a snake attack, the adrenaline surge combined with fear can, in some cases, make you fast enough to avoid getting bit. (And in some cases, that adrenaline surge triggers the freeze response, resulting in death.)

However, in social situations such as this latest election, fearful responses rarely lead to good results. And this is because fear makes us easier to control, easier to manipulate, easier to defeat. Mob mentality is borne most often out of fear or anger. Neither are good.

Fear alone does not make us smarter. Left unchecked it leaves us demoralized, weakened, and vulnerable. We react, lash out, and leave ourselves more vulnerable than when we started. It can also feed into other narratives and lead to further destruction, less communication, and more slipping.

Instead, we must be vigilant. Aware. Awake. Active.

The reality is that we should be this way no matter who is running the government and no matter where we are. Politicians are rarely the people we hope they will be even when we most deeply support them. They make back room deals. They wield influence, trade favors, deceive people, manipulate outcomes, and oh so much more.

I am of the belief that none of them should be trusted. They should be watched, regarded with caution, and held accountable, regardless of the affiliations they proclaim. The same is true for businesses large and small. I suppose that while I have hope for the best in people, I also recognize the worst.

Now for many, this fearful response is churning even now. It’s hard to control, and some are already comparing Trump to Hitler and engaging in high levels of hyperbole just as others are proclaiming the start of a new and wondrous world and some are certain it will be business as usual and possibly the majority are just not sure what to expect. (In fairness, I suspect both extremes will see these beliefs challenged, moderated, and shrunk when they are actually tested.)

And if the fearful response isn’t riling up inside, we should encourage our fellow Americans and friends from around the world.  Many are genuinely terrified and even more don’t know what to expect. This is a good time for compassion, mercy, and kindness.

So if fear cannot be stopped from cropping up, what can we do? We can take that fear we feel and channel it into motivation. Not letting it cloud our senses or creating worse situations than what already exists. We need our wits about us, and we can prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

Listen

We do have to listen, and that is one thing that we don’t do particularly well. On most points of the spectrum, many of us said what we wanted and avoided listening as much as we could. Or when we did listen, we translated what we heard into something that made sense to us based on our ideologies. This isn’t really listening, though it should be noted that listening, truly listening, does not mean necessarily agreeing.

In talking with people on all sides of this election, I can say that it isn’t so simple as racism, sexism, or any of the isms. I suspect there are some people for whom that was a deciding factor, but not all, and I would venture to say not even most. And I do see why some fear that this is the case. But if we ask what this is election is about (what is the core issue), we get vastly different answers from different groups, some of whom are unaware of the other issues or are unable to see their importance. In fact the general suspicion about the media has led to a general disbelief among many against just about anything it reports, which makes the results even more convoluted. (Again what people perceive to be the truth and what they thought was a smear campaign as well as the overall media involvement is best saved for another discussion.)

It is all too easy for people at all points to write all the others off with some simple phrase that we feel captures the entirety of their situation. But when is life really as simple as that?

There are many possible reasons for the choices that we have witnessed in this election. As time has passed, I have learned that it is often a matter of priorities and differences in interpretation. It isn’t as simple as saying “hate won” or “love won.” That sounds nice for the soundbites. But it horrifically oversimplifies it and inevitably results in at least one side feeling as if it isn’t being heard or understood.

Additionally, when we truly listen, we can find, when dealing with most, the points on which we agree and build connections from there that may lead to greater unity and understanding. Those connections may in turn lead to the construction of a stronger foundation on which to act in the future.

Act

Social media and the Internet Age makes talk cheap and easy. The reactions I’ve seen online far outweigh what I’ve seen in the physical world around me, and people in general are far more inclined to vent or rant or express themselves with hyperbole online than in person.

The subsequent release from such venting may make some of us feel as if we have been productive, but it’s not really as effective as actual action.

It is important that we are aware of what actual steps are being taken against our freedoms and against our people, and then we ourselves must act. The power of the people is enormous, and most do not realize this.

If there is something that you see or know is unjust, do what you can to fix it and bring awareness to it in the most constructive way possible.

Grieve or Celebrate But Don’t Burn the Bridges

I am saddened at the enormous rift that is apparent within this country. If reports on social media are not just hyperbole, then a lot of families are not speaking to one another. Communities are ripped apart. Declarations of rage, unforgiveness, and grief surge through the social media channels like ripped open veins. Friendships have been sundered. People demand that all those who did not act in alignment with their convictions leave them alone. It isn’t a pretty sight. Hopefully these wounds will mend sooner rather than later.

I admit I have been surprised at some of the things I’ve witnessed myself. There are some things, some statements, that I wonder if I will be able to move past.

I want to. I need to. I believe I will. But it will likely be hard.

This has been a heated election. The most turbulent and bizarre I have ever seen (which in fairness hasn’t been that many). But we are still family and neighbors. The emotional repercussions of this will continue to be felt, but we do need to move toward healing and forgiveness. (Even if the people we disagree with don’t apologize or ever see what they did.)

Some of us are going to be in disagreement because of where we wanted the nation to go and some because of what we believe this election represents. But at the end, we cannot let the government or politics tear us apart. A people divided is a people more easily controlled and more easily distracted.

While the family we get to choose is quite dear and something to be treasured, the family we are born into and the immediate community that surrounds us is not something to be taken lightly. Disagreements and conflict may be unpleasant, but understanding and positive change may come through those interactions and lives may be changed. Living with those who agree with us may be comfortable, but it rarely creates positive change in a nation so large and diverse as this one.

Hold Assumptions Loosely

What this election means is still being shaken out. Was this a response to President Obama’s policies or a rejection of Hillary Clinton for her politics or her policies? Was this an embrace of Trump’s ideology or a mandate to shrink government? Was it X or was it Y?

We can make all kinds of assumptions. We can make assumptions about why this happened and about what it says about the people who voted in one way or another. But these assumptions are not necessarily correct, and relying on these assumptions may in fact make matters worse.

Don’t Demonize the Independents

The one thing that seems to be acceptable is that independents may still be attacked, blamed, and generally have inferred upon them that all the ills of this election are their fault. While I do respect that there are other opinions, I would point out that when we tell this segment of the population that they are to blame or that their votes are wasted, we are only alienating them further.

Belief in a two-party system is not essential to the effective running of our government. It is something of a fiction created by both parties to retain control and allow them to focus on a few “key” issues, essentially wedging voters into one camp or another even if they only agree on one or two points. Other nations have multi-party systems, and they function.

More importantly, an incredible aspect of our election process is that people are able to vote based on their convictions (even if we do not agree on the types of convictions or the priorities of those convictions). For some of us, the demand that we choose between one of the two main parties (the lesser of two evils, so to speak) is unacceptable. Most would agree that the system is corrupted and broken. For some of us, that means we work within the two-party system to hopefully uncover a solution, and for some of us that means we must work to challenge the two-party system by supporting third party options.

Look for the Helpers

One of my favorite quotes from Mr. Rogers (Fred Rogers) is “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”

There are still people who will be working, ministering, and serving in all areas of life. We should look for them, encourage them, and…be them. Who sits in the White House does not eliminate these people, and we can always find ways to be one of the helpers.

This country is not going to turn into some dystopian nightmare overnight. The Purge is not coming. I don’t know what all the future will bring (and who can actually know), but this is not the end, and we can still do great good.

The Burden Is On Us (Regardless of Party or  Voting Choice)

Regardless of which side you are on in this election, even if you chose not to vote, the burden is on you to do your part to make this country better. (And make no mistake, it has always been this way.)

Some of us believe that we need less government involvement. If we get that, this means that there will be people who have depended on services and opportunities from the government who will suddenly be without these programs. Whether that is merited is another discussion. What matters is that there will be pain and withdrawal and loss if those programs are cut. And this means that if we are saying that the government is not needed to take care of these people, then we have to step up.

(Christians, this applies especially to us as Scripture is quite clear on our duty to care for the downtrodden, the homeless, the orphan, and the widow. And if we are going to say that this is for the church to assist in as many have, we must remember that we have to take action in this regard. We cannot sit on our haunches and wait for others to step up to the plate, and we cannot save our aid, compassion, and services only for those with whom we agree.)

Some of us believe that we need more government involvement. That may also happen, but with that runs the possibilities for abuse and the possibility that it may not be the sort of involvement desired. And if we don’t get it, then we still have to be prepared to wade in and provide the support that the government is not.

Additionally, we must all be on guard for abuses of power, violations of rights, and do what we can to prevent and stop those, regardless of who they are against.

Remain Aware and Active

This may be somewhat repetitive, but I cannot emphasize it enough. We must not grow complacent. Regardless of how we feel about this election, we can’t become docile or so discouraged that we abandon everything. Now, certainly, for some of us, there will need to be a rest period, but for the rest of us, for all of us who can, we must not weary of doing good or refrain from it.

This is the world in which we live. We all have differing roles to play, and we are all responsible for what we have been given.

At the end of the day who is president will impact most of our day-to-day decisions less than it might seem on this day and the upcoming ones. But we can make a tremendous impact by how we treat our friends, family, neighbors, and people within our communities.

I won’t let any candidate or leader or person steal my hope. And no matter who is in office, my responsibility remains.

I had intended to write about Hillary Clinton, the glass ceiling, etc., but this post has gone on long enough. I’ll tackle that one later.

Anyway, much love to you, my friends. Talk to you soon.

Bold Kindness and Gentle Words

It all started with my mother. It is her habit to speak kindly and gently to everyone, even though she is excruciatingly shy. Talking to strangers used to send her into panics though now she manages it better. But that terror, despite it being a powerful force, has never stopped her from being compassionate.

girl writing a letter with ink penThe other thing it has not stopped her from doing is sharing encouragement with people. Sometimes it is with handwritten notes. Other times, it is just the spoken word. And always the truth. She has the ability to see beauty in practically everything and to find even the smallest germs of goodness and praise them. Most don’t realize what strength it takes for her to do this. Some call her naive or a Pollyanna. But she is always sincere. There is life in her words, and it seeps into the soul.

But that doesn’t mean that everyone receives her kindly. While this has happened on more than one occasion, I remember one incident quite vividly.

There was a church event of some sort around Easter. Perhaps the Mother Daughter Banquet. After the event, I saw my daisies-1373075mother step up to the speaker. She thanked the woman for sharing and told her what a beautiful job she had done and precisely how it had affected her and what a gift it was. The woman’s eyes welled up with tears, and she thanked my mother.

As I stood there watching, it seemed to me that all my mother had done was notice little things that the speaker had woven into her speech and shared how it had affected her. It wasn’t much, yet it made such a difference. And then my mother gave the speaker’s hands a quick squeeze.

Other women stood nearby. As soon as my mother and the speaker were out of earshot, they just shook their heads. Some of them laughed into their hands. And then they started making fun of my mother. Because of what she had said. Because of how she said it. Because obviously she had only said it to get attention. Because she was such a silly foolish woman. On and on they went.

What they didn’t know was that I had heard every word they said as I stood around the corner of the painted concrete wall. And just as my mother’s words strengthened the speaker’s spirit, these women’s words poisoned mine. To see how they mocked my mother who had done nothing but speak tenderly to another human being and encourage her on her path was devastating.

I didn’t tell her what they said. That would have only furthered their cruelty. But some small part of me hated those women.

vintage-1029413Yet it turned out that these women had not responded atypically. Again and again, I have heard people speak words of kindness and then others stab them for it, almost always suggesting that there is another agenda or that the person is false or foolishly naïve or silly in some way. As if the mere fact that one is kind is proof of weakness.

These people dragged her down in their discussion, nitpicking her words and the way that she said them along with her accent and her mannerisms. It was beyond despicable.

I even lost a friend over it when I was in college. This friend was an artist who came from a very tragic home. She poured her emotions into her art in vivid watercolors and oil paintings as well as charcoal sketches.

When my mother visited, she looked at this friend’s artwork and said, “you are such a preciously gifted woman. Don’t ever forget that.” She continued on, pointing out the things that my friend had done well. When my friend mentioned something from her past and some of the horrible things people had said to her, my mother said, “Don’t believe them. You are a lovely woman, and I mean that sincerely. Please don’t ever doubt your value.”

blue-925209When my mother left, my friend then looked at me, rolled her eyes, and said, “Your mom is so fake. Can you believe she’d say something like that? What a c***” She then proceeded to mimic my mother in an even more offensive manner.

(It should not be surprising that this friend and I parted ways permanently within minutes of that conversation.)

As before, I did not mention this to my mother, not wanting to burden her with these odd displays of cruelty and mockery. Of course, as it turned out, she was aware of far more than I knew. Apparently the bullying was something she had endured all her life with many believing her to be false, stupid, naïve, or just too much of a Pollyanna. She knew that speaking kindly and offering generosity often led to people assuming the worst in some form or another. Yet she never let that stop her because she knew that what she did made a difference to those who received it, and she could not control how it was perceived. It was hard, she admitted when I asked her about it. But she wasn’t going to let cruel or misguided people change her. So she carried on in her own shy and gentle way, serving the Lord and ministering to all He put in her path.

Apparently there is a certain measure of kindness which the rabbit-913550world expects from people (and for the record, it’s precious small). Display that and nothing more, and you will pass by without much scrutiny. Indeed, you may even be rewarded with assertions that you are, in fact, a good person. But show too much, and the world may grow suspicious. Do it consistently, and you make yourself a target with some.

It may not even be the majority. As I think back on it, those who did respond harshly or cruelly were far fewer than those who were genuinely touched. It just felt so much larger at the time. And there will always be those who just live to put others down for their own enjoyment and self-validation.

But it has taken me so long to extract that poison splinter. And there have been far too many times when I am ashamed to say that I have stowed away my words and locked them up for fear of being thought insincere or naïve or some other silly thing.

It wasn’t until recently that I realized something very

What we say is a reflection of ourselves.

important and actually knew it in my heart. When those people spoke, they were not reflecting what my mother had done nor any true reality of what was within her soul. Instead, they shone light on what was inside themselves and reflected it out for all to see.

Not one of them could point to anything my mother had done to make them believe she was false or that she didn’t mean what she had said. Their words were merely said in a moment, perhaps because her kindness made them feel guilty. Perhaps because tearing down someone made them feel good. Perhaps because they just wanted to laugh at someone’s expense.

So often the charge to act without care to what others think is used in reference to bold or frightening tasks or even things that just seem rather impractical or out of the ordinary like wearing dragon wings out at the park while you sketch your imaginings. In church, it often includes sharing the Gospel or letting it be known that you believe in Jesus in a public setting. In high school, it generally involves not taking drugs and standing against those who offer them. This charge takes many shapes and forms, but it is often something portrayed as being quite large and rather frightening.
water-830374But this charge does extend to encouraging people, including strangers and acquaintances. It takes courage to be kind and believe the best. To reach out and brush the hand of another and say, “It’s all right. You’ve got this. Now keep going. You did that so well.”

Over the years, I have become bolder with my words and more confident in the sharing even when I have received my own share of mocking responses in return. My mother’s example is a fine one, and her consistency and tenderness is something I admire. She epitomizes that lifestyle of grace and compassion that I so often struggle to live out.

This world is cruel. Whether one is a tall poppy or a low lying moss, it seems that something or someone always wants to cut you down and grind you up. If you can speak kindness and life into another, then you should because I can guarantee that many others, sometimes even their own minds, will be telling Depositphotos_48612307_originalthem the opposite.

So speak, share, and love. Encourage and build people up. Don’t let the fear of mockery or derision keep you from sharing words of kindness and encouragement.

Indeed this world could use a lot more bold kindness and many more sincere but gentle words.

 

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