Kindness should not stop with us—we can extend it outward from ourselves, like the ripples on a pond, toward our family, friends, and loved ones. This is relatively natural and effortless. But for loving kindness to be genuine, it cannot just end with the people we know and like; it has to go further, toward those we do not know and even do not like. This includes people we may be having a hard time with, someone with whom communication is difficult, where negative issues have arisen that are pulling the relationship apart, where there is anger, resentment, or dislike.
When we are affected by someone being dismissive, critical, or hurtful, then it is often because there is a hook in us for that tension to grab hold of, a place where it can land that triggers all our hidden feelings of unworthiness, insecurity, doubt, even self-hate. However, when we extend kindness toward others outside our usual circle, an extraordinary thing happens: the landing place, or the hook within, begins to dissolve.
As a Burmese teacher once told author Andrew Harvey, "Out of compassion for myself, let me let go of all these feelings of anger and resentment toward others."
Prejudice can go very deep. It is only healed when we end the war within and accept those parts of ourselves we find so unacceptable. Then we will have the courage to accept those who are different from us, who have different beliefs, who are a different color, or who live differently. When we can tolerate ourselves, then we can be tolerable toward others and extend kindness to all... equally.
As Gandhi said, "We must widen the circle of our love until it embraces the whole village...until the scope of our love encompasses the whole world."
~ Ed and Deb Shapiro
One of the most important questions you can ever ask yourself is, "Do I want to be "right"—or do I want to be happy?" Many times, the two are mutually exclusive.
Being right, defending our positions, takes an enormous amount of mental energy and often alienates us from the people in our lives. Needing to be right—or needing someone else to be wrong--encourages others to become defensive, and puts pressure on us to keep defending. Yet, many of us (me, too, at times) spend a great deal of time and energy attempting to prove (or point out) that we are right—and/or others are wrong. Many people, consciously or unconsciously, believe that it's somehow their job to show others how their positions, statements, and points of view are incorrect, and that in doing so, the person they are correcting is going to somehow appreciate it, or at least learn something. Wrong!
The truth is, all of us hate to be corrected. We all want our positions to be respected and understood by others. Being listened to and heard is one of the greatest desires of the human heart. And those who learn to listen are the most loved and respected. Those who are in the habit of correcting others are often resented and avoided.
It's not that it's never appropriate to be right—sometimes you genuinely need to be or want to be. Perhaps there are certain philosophical positions that you don't want to budge on such as when you hear a racist comment. Here, it's important to speak your mind. Usually, however, it's just your ego creeping in and ruining an otherwise peaceful encounter—a habit of wanting or needing to be right.
A wonderful, heartfelt strategy for becoming more peaceful and loving is to practice allowing others the joy of being right—give them the glory. Stop correcting. As hard as it may be to change this habit, it's worth any effort and practice it takes.
When someone says, "I really feel it's important to. . . " rather than jumping in and saying, "No, it's more important to. . . " or any of the hundreds of other forms of conversational editing, simply let it go and allow their statement to stand. You'll discover the joy of participating in and witnessing other people's happiness, which is far more rewarding than a battle of egos.
~ Richard Carlson
'T is you that are the music, not your song.
The song is but a door which, opening wide,
Lets forth the pent-up melody inside,
Your spirit's harmony, which clear and strong
Sings but of you. Throughout your whole life long
Your songs, your thoughts, your doings, each divide
This perfect beauty; waves within a tide,
Or single notes amid a glorious throng.
The song of earth has many different chords;
Ocean has many moods and many tones
Yet always ocean. In the damp Spring woods
The painted trillium smiles, while crisp pine cones
Autumn alone can ripen. So is this
One music with a thousand cadences.
By Amy Lowell
My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance; and let perseverance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)
What were the "trials" that James's readers were enduring? Poverty must certainly have been among them. James's letter is filled with references to poverty and wealth, and he makes clear that at least the majority of his readers are poor. James 2:6-7 makes pretty clear that unfair persecution was one of the causes of the poverty that the early Christians were experiencing. Rich people, who were "slandering" the name of Christ, were "exploiting" the Christians and "dragging them into court." See also 5:1-6, where James accuses rich people of "hoarding wealth in the last days" and "killing" the "innocent" by withholding wages from them.
By stressing that the trials were of "many kinds," James deliberately casts his net widely, including the many kinds of suffering that Christians undergo in this fallen world: sickness, loneliness, disappointment, mourning, uncertainty. Why can believers react to trials with so strange and unexpected a response as joy? Because we know that trials perfect our faith and make us stronger.
I like what Luke Timothy Johnson, a New Testament scholar and historian of early Christianity, points out about the trials we face: "The difficulties of life are intended by God to refine our faith—heating it in the crucible of suffering so that impurities might be refined away and so that it might become pure and valuable before the Lord." The "testing of faith" here, then, is not intended to determine whether a person has faith or not—it is intended to purify faith that already exists.
Testing produces, first of all, perseverance (also interpreted "patient endurance"). The picture of the Greek word here is of a person successfully carrying a heavy load for a long time; eventually steering
them in the right direction. Like a muscle that becomes strong when it faces resistance, so Christians learn to remain faithful to God over the long haul when they face trials of many kinds.
James believes we should rejoice because trials give us an opportunity to develop the virtue of "patient endurance," which will in turn lead to a mature and complete Christian character. This is how Christians are to live. This is not to say that we cannot call pain, pain; difficulty, difficulty. Paul makes it very clear that he could recognize pain, call it what it is, and experience it with the full depth of human anguish (1 Cor. 4:9-13). He also left us the example of fleeing from persecution when it was appropriate (Acts 17:10-14). Yet even in such situations he, with James, could look beyond them to "an eternal glory that far outweighs them all—reminding us to fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (2 Cor. 4:17-18).
Coronavirus: Responding in Prayer:
Heal those who are sick with the virus. May they regain their strength and health through quality medical care.
Heal us from our fear, which prevents nations from working together and neighbors from helping one another.
Heal us from our opinions, which can make us claim invulnerability to a disease that knows no borders.
Be with the doctors, nurses, researchers and all medical professionals who seek to heal and help those affected and who put themselves at risk in the process. May they know your protection and peace.
Jesus Christ, healer of all, firmly hold our hand in this time of uncertainty and sorrow.
Be with those who have died from the virus. May they be at rest with you in your eternal peace. Be with the families of those who are sick or have died. As they worry and grieve, defend them from illness and despair. May they know your comfort.
Whether we are home or abroad, surrounded by many people suffering from this illness or only a few, Christ Jesus our Lord, stay with us as we endure and mourn, persist and prepare. In place of our anxiety, give us your calming peace. In Jesus' name. Amen.
The surest way to suppress our ability to recognize the revelation of God is to take things for granted. Indifference to the divine mystery of life is perhaps our greatest shortfall. As civilization continues to advance our sense of wonder continues to decline. Such decline is an alarming symptom of our shortsighted, mortal condition.
Modern society will not perish from a lack of information, but from a lack of compassion.
The beginning of our happiness lies in the understanding that life without God is not worth living. What we lack is not a will to believe, but a will to dig deeper - to go the extra mile - to seek until we find - to sincerely search for whatever it is we lack. Awareness of God's divine presence begins with faith and wonder. It is the result of what a person does on the inside. "The kingdom of God is within." (Luke 17:21)
The greatest hindrance to such awareness, to discovering the kingdom within, is our lack of motivation to learn more, our failed attempts to understand more, and our inability to pray more.
J. E. Royle
In all areas of life there seems to be pressure to accept the current edition, the newest thing-a-ma-jig as the superior. The argument of “newer-is-better” assumes that a modern idea should be preferred to an ancient one simply because it is modern. This way of thinking has a long history, going back at least to the Athenians of the Apostle Paul’s day who “liked to spend all their time telling and hearing the latest new thing” (Acts 17:21).
The peer pressure to keep up-to-date is powerful in our society. The results of this pressure can be seen all around us. Take the clothing industry for example. The stores today do not sell clothes (they do, I know, but stick with me). From a broader perspective what they are selling is fashion. Back when companies first started selling clothes, the fabric was extremely durable and designed to last for years (Levi jeans, for example). Clothing does not change; shirts, pants, coats, socks, etc. Fashion, however, changes from year to year and from season to season.
One resource I find myself still using on a regular basis is John Bartlett’s book of Familiar Quotations, first published in 1855. All of the quotes in the book you can probably find online, but what you won’t find is the underlined, smudged, paper smelling pages of my old companion. There is something beautiful about that book; timeworn with dignity.
I imagine every person will come face to face with this hard reality at some point in their lives—that newer doesn’t always mean better. Especially after years have gone by and we gift to one of our friends or relatives something of value. Whatever that item of value is, at one time, it meant a lot to us. And now, as we give it a new home, we hope it isn't just put on a shelf to collect dust. And why would someone do something like that? Well… it isn't new anymore.
Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings?
What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building. (I Corinthians 3:1-9).
Paul has just been talking about the difference between the person who is spiritual, and who can therefore understand spiritual truths, and the person whose interests and aims and ideas do not go beyond earthly and physical life; one who is unable to grasp spiritual truth.
He now accuses the Corinthians of being still at the earthly and physical stage. The fault that Paul find with the Corinthians is not that they are made of flesh—all people are—but that they have allowed this lower side of their nature to dominate all their outlook and all their actions.
What is the proof of that? What is it about their life and conduct that makes Paul hurl such a rebuke at them? The proof is their spiritual strife, their factions, their divisions. This is extremely significant because it means that you can tell what a person's relationship with God is by looking at a person's relationship they have with others.
If a person is distant from others it is a good possibility that that person is distant from God. If a person persistently sows seeds of division it is a good possibility that that person is divided from God. If a person loves God wholeheartedly they will love others unconditionally.
We have always to remember that God may use human vessels to bring to others the message of Christ's truth and love; but it is God alone who lifts the hearts of people to new life. As God alone created the heart, so God alone can re-create it.
Jason E. Royle
Welcome to my blog. I'm an open-minded theologian committed to Christ-like compassion & understanding.
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