The man was very agitated and upset as he spoke. This usually level-headed individual was taking out all of his frustration about a specific situation on me, challenging me to react and respond in kind.
But I didn’t feel that would be a productive path for either of us. Instead I quietly thanked him for the information he’d conveyed to me and said I’d get back to him. Then I went home and considered how to respond.
I take Christ Jesus’ command to “love one another” seriously and try to live it in my daily life. As Jesus’ own example showed, this doesn’t mean avoiding confronting evil or wrongdoing. Sometimes the most loving thing is to take a stand against evil with a rebuke. But in any situation, love, rather than anger, is what enables us to respond in the most productive way. And in this case, it seemed clear to me that kindness was called for.
I regularly turn to the Bible for guidance and healing. So here my prayer began with this verse from Proverbs that seemed to speak directly to the situation: “A soft answer turneth away wrath” (15:1). It didn’t seem fruitful to engage in a prolonged debate with this person. However, I knew that given the depth of his frustration, more was required than surface-level kindness. The response needed to speak to his heart.
I was reminded of a passage from another book I often turn to for inspiration, “Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896” by Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science and founder of this newspaper. She writes of qualities that speak to the power of kindness and its healing effects: “A little more grace, a motive made pure, a few truths tenderly told, a heart softened, a character subdued, a life consecrated, would restore the right action of the mental mechanism, and make manifest the movement of body and soul in accord with God” (p. 354).
As I thought and prayed with these ideas, I considered what I’ve learned in Christian Science about the relation between God and man (a name for all the sons and daughters of God). God’s man is the spiritual image and likeness of God, who is all good, so we cannot be both good and evil. The ability to express kindness, grace, and tenderness is inherent in who we are as God’s children.
So when kindness is called for, we can take it further than following common conventions of courtesy to something God-impelled, acknowledging the power of divine Love to bring harmony and healing. I was determined to express this deeper sense of kindness to this individual in our conversation.
When I called the individual back, almost as soon as the conversation began it became clear to me how afraid and unappreciated he felt, and that he needed to be assured that his voice was heard. At that moment, I felt such love and compassion for him. My prayer for a deeper understanding of kindness led me to feel the gentle power of the divine Love that is God, which had impelled that prayer and which speaks to all hearts.
After almost a half-hour on the phone, during which I patiently listened to him, this man’s whole tone and demeanor had changed. He was acting and speaking like himself again. He’s never acted in an upset way toward me again, nor have I thought of him unkindly. It was an important lesson for me in understanding kindness as a spiritual quality of God, infinite Love, and as a natural expression of our loving identity as God’s children.
Kindness is an inherent quality of God’s man – of all of us. When understood this way, it can bring about a softening of heart and a receptivity to good that bring out the best in us and others around us.