Kindness is making a comeback for people who care. We are thinking about it, maybe because we have had so many mass shootings and school-shootings this year, that they are happening every week. I heard a stat on their frequency that I didn’t even believe! People are becoming traumatized, scared, desensitized, and sensitized towards kindness.
We can think this evil comes from people with big issues, whose minds aren’t working properly, and dismiss finding a reason. And say if we weren’t closing mental hospitals and institutions, it wouldn’t be happening.
Some of that may be true. But I’ve started to wonder about kindness in families. Are we taught it? I’ve already talked about how permissiveness is not love; it is weakness. There may be more desire for kindness, but kindness has strength.
Kindness is a choice, just like love is a choice, and tends more toward giving what is needed than what is wanted. And I think our permissive parenting from the past 20-50 years comes from weakness more than strength; and it has produced adults who value independence, but don’t necessarily value kindness, and don’t have the strength to carry it off.
Did your parents make sure that your siblings were kind to you? Did they teach you to be kind to each other? Did they stop rudeness and meanness? Did they value kindness? Were they kind to you?
Don’t confuse kindness with permissiveness. There is a big difference. A permissive parent doesn’t want to deal with the hard stuff of teaching values, and giving appropriate, respectful discipline by setting and holding boundaries. They want you to learn by trial and error, and only discipline when they are angry (punishment). A kind parent cares what you value and realizes that we aren’t born caring about others, we have to learn it. We are born with both good and evil tendencies through our epigenetics.
If we are loved well, we get it. If we have personalities that tend toward kindness we are fortunate. But most of us at least need modeling in kindness. The opposite can bring it up too–we see evil happening in meanness and it pulls up kindness and justice from deep inside.
Kindness can be excited by unfairness, and that is why it is a strength and needs strength. But it must be balanced. It is not rushing in to rescue someone who needs to work through their own process of learning. That kind of rescue is called enabling and it is not kind. But neither is letting kids be mean to each other as a way of learning to stand up for themselves. One of my adult clients struggles from the pain of childhood because his dad pitted them against each other.
I wasn’t “taught” kindness at home. It wasn’t modeled between my parents, however, they were kind to others, especially my mother. But I was so picked on by an older brother, and so afraid of being taken advantage of, that not much of it was “caught” either.
It is such a deficit to grow up not consciously valuing kindness! And I know I was taught it in church and school! Being bullied can make you defensive or kind–it can go either way. I organized my identity around self-protection.
I still remember the shock of reading in scripture (when I was 40!) that God didn’t value self-protection. That He wanted me to trust Him and be vulnerable. He might as well have said jump over the moon! But I couldn’t get away from it. It was everywhere. And it became very important for me to see that God is kind. (I just realized that might be why I am writing the Bible as a story of God’s goodness in Their family. My master’s project was seeing Him as a parent. Wow! Never realized this before.)
And yes, I have found that God is kind–even when He appears not to be. There are two words in Hebrew for God’s will: one is Their preferred will, and the other is Their allowed will. Guess which one They get to use most often?
Right! Their allowed will. All through scripture, most of the time, They are deferring to human will. That is why it is so important to look at God’s story from a cosmic perspective with the backdrop of a war between good and evil–especially with our broken viewpoints!*