One of my favorite podcasts - probably the one I most faithfully listen to - is called "The Next Right Thing". On this podcast, one of the many sentences Emily P. Freeman said that felt really profound was this one: "Maybe it’s better to err on the side of kindness and curiosity."
I got thinking about this sentence again recently, pondering what it actually means to "err on the side of kindness and curiosity". For the sake of delving a little deeper, let me consider these two words one at a time.
So first, kindness. It seems most people have kind of a baseline amount of kindness that feels reasonable. I suppose there are the exceptions, people out there who for some reason maybe find some kind of satisfaction in being unkind. But generally speaking, I feel like there is an assumption people have that everyone should be at least sort of kind.
It's like a level of kindness that could be equated with basic human decency, right? I may not hold the door for the next person but I'm not going to intentionally slam it when I see someone coming right behind me. Or if I do, I'm going to at least feel a little guilty about it.
But what would it be like if I started to push myself to go beyond that baseline kindness on a regular basis? To shift the norm further to the generous side of kindness? Imagine just for a few seconds what the world would be like if we all spent one day truly erring on the side of kindness...
Would we hug our kids a little more?
Go ahead and write that note to that friend who could use some encouragement?
Think twice before giving someone a piece of our mind?
Maybe spend more time thinking about others and how we can serve them rather than worrying so much about what they think of us?
Come to think of it, what about being more kind to ourselves? Would we replace that default accusatory tone of our internal dialogue to a more compassionate one?
No matter how different this kind of a day would feel, I have to wonder - what is it that keeps us stuck in this non-extravagant, mediocre level of kindness? I am just as guilty as the next person, and I'm not totally sure why it's so hard to be extra kind. What do we have to lose? Are we worried that if we're too kind, people will think less of us?
I recently heard someone give the advice to teach your children to be "strong and kind". Maybe we sometimes mistakenly think that if we're too kind, we won't be able to be strong. So instead of pursuing ways to act in kindness and strength, we default to being a little less kind so that we ensure that we stay strong. God, have mercy, and show us a better way.
Speaking of a better way, what about erring on the side of curiosity? Jesus may be a good example of someone being curious. When He was here on earth, since He was God, He knew everything - knew people's thoughts and actions and the reasons behind them - and yet He still asked questions. Questions like...
Why are you anxious about clothes?
Why are you terrified?
What do you want me to do for you?
What are you looking for?
Why are you thinking about such things in your heart?
What are you discussing as you walk along?
Do you love me?
These are just a few of the dozens of questions Jesus asked that are recorded in the Bible. (Since every second of His life was not documented, I would guess He actually asked many more!) Of course none of us were with Him in person to hear exactly how He asked them, what His tone was, or His body language, but my hunch is that if we were, we would find Him to be genuinely curious.
Merriam-Webster defines curious this way: "marked by inquisitive interest in others' concerns". According to Dictionary.com, curious means "eager to learn or know." Would people describe me this way? Do I have an inquisitive interest in others' concerns? Am I eager to learn or know things?
Or, do I assume I already know where someone else is coming from? Would I rather hold tightly to what I believe and not ask questions that might help me understand others better? Is it even possible for me to ask questions with only a desire to learn? Free from any ulterior motives?
I'm asking these questions (hopefully in a kind and curious way) because I feel very aware of my own lacking in both of these areas. And I have a feeling I'm not alone. As is the case with so many areas of needed growth, one of the best starting places, though, is prayer.
Perhaps the only way any of us can truly grow in kindness is by deepening our own understanding and experience of the incredible, unending kindness of God. And perhaps as we become more acquainted with the curiosity Jesus exemplified, we will find ourselves erring more on the side of curiosity.
May we grow to be people who are abundantly kind and genuinely curious, and may God give us wisdom to teach these traits to our children as well.
Pray with me...
... that God will reveal His kindness to all in the BCS/WCA community in fresh ways
The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. Psalm 145: 8
... that He will enable us to be kind to one another and ask good questions with curiosity rather than judgment
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32
... that as we prepare to serve others this spring through our service learning program and our Serve-a-Thon, God would fill us with His kindness and and deepen our desire to learn from and serve others
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. Romans 13:8
Soli Deo Gloria
To God alone be the glory
Thanks for taking the time to read this blog and pray for BCS/WCA. My plan is to publish weekly on Wednesdays, Lord willing. Feel free to subscribe (at the bottom of this page) if you’d like to be notified each time a new blog post has been published.