In 1995, our family went to see the movie, “The Lion King.” We had various reactions to certain parts of the movie. One child was frightened by certain scenes and chose to leave. I was also bothered by those scenes and left with her. When we came back for the rest of the family, I asked what they thought. One of them had also been bothered by certain scenes but wanted to see how it ended. The other two said they were fine with it.
There are two ways I could look at this. I could simply acknowledge that we’re all different and thus react differently. (This is the healthy perspective.) Or, I could compare them to myself and become critical of those whose opinion differed from mine, concluding that they are less “sensitive” than I am.
The Bible tells us not to judge others critically. God is the only one who has the right to judge because He alone is perfect. We are each unique and how we respond to things will vary. It is rarely, if ever, healthy to “compare” people. Instead, we should view them with respect, even if our opinions differ.
This past year, Tom and I have had the privilege of hosting a 19-year-old German missionary, Michelle. She has been a beautiful role model in compassionate joy. One small way this was in evidence was during our Skip Bo card games. Instead of being competitive, she truly didn’t care if she won and she’d always cheer others on when they played a good hand.
Near the end of her stay, we learned that she sometimes allowed someone else to win. During her last two nights with us, I talked to my husband and Kat (the other missionary who lives with us) and suggested we work as a team to see if we could secretly help Michelle to win. We tried our best, but the cards didn’t play out right. Other people won. However, I noticed how relaxing it was to play when I honestly didn’t want to win.
Each of us have many opportunities to serve and encourage others in both small and large ways. When we do so, we’re more likely to experience peace and joy than when we’re focused on ourselves.
Thank you, Michelle, for being such a great role model of a servant heart. We’ll miss you, but your positive influence will remain with us.
Being focused on a problem can cause us to be insensitive. Not long ago, I fell into this trap. My husband and I had two of our grandchildren (ages 6 and 5) over for a few days. On their final day, the kids and I ran a few errands together. (Tom was away at a conference with our son, that day.) Our first stop was the gas station. I usually put my credit card in my wallet while the gas is pumping, but this particular time I stuck it in my pocket while washing the windows. We then went to the bank and to the park.
Finally, I took them out to lunch. When I went to pay for it, I discovered that my credit card was missing. Thankfully, I had another one. The kids and I prayed that I’d find my card and I should have left it in the Lord’s hands at that point. We’d had a wonderful 3 days together and a delightful time at lunch. But now my mind was distracted by the loss of the credit card. I wanted to get them quickly home in order to return to the places I might have lost it or to call and cancel the card.
As a result, I spent little time socializing with the rest of their family. When I was about five minutes from their house, on my way back home, I suddenly realized I hadn’t even hugged the kids good-by! When I got home, I sent a text message to my daughter asking her to apologize to the kids for me and tell them God answered our prayers. I also shared the lesson I’d learned. She wrote back saying that they were sad when I just disappeared without saying good-by, but she appreciated what I’d learned.
I did find my card (it had fallen out of my pocket at home) and I learned a valuable lesson. Trust God with my problems and keep focused on the moment at hand!
Sometimes kindness means not giving a person what they’re asking for, and that may appear as unkind to them. When a parent says no to a child’s request, the parent may be acting in the child’s best interest, but the child may not be able to see that at the time. When God says no to us, it may appear unkind, but we know He always acts in our best interest.
So far, God has chosen not to grant my requests for our son to be healed of cerebral palsy. But God has certainly brought good out of that situation! For one thing, God used Shon’s premature birth and disability to show my husband and me that we weren’t in control of all of our circumstances. God also used these situations to bring about our salvation, and now these challenges keep us close to Jesus, which is definitely a good thing!
I have been in situations where my intentions were to be helpful, such as trying to help people resolve a conflict, but I ended up being accused of things that weren’t true. In such situations, I need to trust God to work things out.
As in all things with God, kindness is an attitude of the heart (and that’s what God looks at: our motives). People may misjudge our actions, but we have to let God handle that. Our responsibility is to make sure our conscience is clear before the Lord. Then we will experience His perfect peace, regardless of circumstances.
“Do everything without complaining or arguing…” (Philippians 2:14, NIV.) He “…takes a genuine interest in your welfare.” (Philippians 2:20, NIV) (The emphasis is mine.)
What a glorious world this would be if everyone lived like this! I am well aware of how my self-indulgent, self-focused sinful human nature struggles with this! When things don’t go my way, I’m very tempted to complain or argue.
Apathy is another by-product of self-focus. When I’m caught up in my own life and personal concerns, it’s challenging to have genuine concern for the needs of others.
I have been guilty, for example, of only half listening to someone while my mind wanders in other directions. But if I’m genuinely concerned about their welfare, I will give them my full attention.
It is always a challenge for me to sacrifice my personal comfort and my time for others, and to set aside my desires in the interest of achieving peace through compromise.
I’m so thankful I have the Holy Spirit to change my heart and empower me to better live the sacrificial, other-focused life! I look forward to the day Christ will reign on earth and we’ll all be perfectly unselfish!
One evening, I was working at the desk while my husband and another man were talking nearby. At one point, I thought my husband said something that wasn’t quite accurate, and I corrected him. (Actually, I just heard him wrong.) He said, “You’re eavesdropping” and I said, “I’ll shut up,” and I did, because he was right. (I later apologized to him for my rudeness.) I had no right to jump into the conversation uninvited.
This reminded me of two important lessons:
- Remain silent when I have not been invited into a conversation!
- Even when I am part of a conversation, I need to prayerfully discern whether or not it’s really necessary for me to correct someone.
I have heard it said, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” I could add, ignore the small stuff if it isn’t significant. It is more important to be considerate of the other person’s feelings. Love is polite, not rude.
One attribute of love is being considerate of others, even in the midst of our own insecurities.
There are times when it’s appropriate to share our insecurities with someone, but there are also times when it is best to keep our thoughts to ourselves. Here is an example of when it’s best to keep silent.
I have never particularly enjoyed cooking. It is more of a necessity than a pleasure for me. In 1991, we had a foreign exchange student, Vinnie, staying with us. I was at the sink after dinner and my husband, Tom, and Vinnie were still at the table. Tom asked Vinnie if his mom was a good cook, and he said yes. I should have stayed out of the conversation, but I said, “Oh dear” and then said something about my lack of skill. Tom said, “You do all right.” Then, thankfully, he added humor and said, “This pizza you ordered is great.” I said, “Yes, that’s my kind of cooking” and the topic changed.
Later it occurred to me that part of my job as a hostess is to make my guest feel comfortable. I needn’t make derogatory remarks about my inadequacies. That doesn’t glorify God. Instead, I should do my best, and trust God to make up for the gaps in my abilities. Love always focuses more on the other person’s needs than on my own.
Failing to forgive someone is very unloving. Forgiving someone who has hurt or offended us is sometimes difficult, and it doesn’t always feel good. When Jesus said, “…Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34, NIV), as he hung on the cross, I’m sure it didn’t feel good. But He loved us enough to do it, both in word and action.
If I ask someone to forgive me and they refuse, I feel like they don’t believe that I’m sorry and that I’m genuinely trying to improve. I also feel like they think I intentionally set out to offend them, which is very rarely the case. Most of my offenses are a result of insensitivity, ignorance, or misunderstanding. In such times, I need gentle, loving guidance.
I am willing to give a person time to forgive me, if they need time to work through their emotions, but I appreciate it if they tell me when I’m forgiven. I usually know people have forgiven me if they act as if nothing happened and start treating me lovingly again, but it’s nice to actually hear the words, I forgive you.
We also need to follow God’s example of not bringing up a person’s past mistakes. When God forgives, He forgets in the sense of never mentioning the mistake again.
Love forgives, unconditionally, both in word and action. May the Lord help us to follow His example of how to love.
One night, as my husband was relaxing on the couch, my frustrated mutterings about the computer disturbed his tranquility. He spoke up and I decided to put the computer away. I surrendered my frustration and disappointment to the Lord and started humming praise songs. Tom, however, was having difficulty forgiving me, and I felt hurt by his lack of compassion for my feelings.
The Lord helped us to get over ourselves by sending an emergency phone call. After we had responded and helped some people out, our good moods were restored.
In my quiet time the next morning, the Lord gave me some insights. As always, He helps me to understand the other person’s perspective by helping me walk in their shoes. Both my husband and I could have been more sensitive.
I thought of times when I have been annoyed by someone else’s complaints. When I’m lacking compassion, I may just be trying to cheer them up so that they’ll quit ruining my day. On the other hand, when God’s love is flowing through me, I will feel their pain and listen compassionately and pray for them.
I would have appreciated my husband offering to pray for me in my time of frustration, instead of getting annoyed with me. But when I remembered times I’ve failed to be compassionate, it was easier to understand and forgive.
So, I jotted down these reminders, and now I’m praying God will keep helping me to apply them!
- When I’m the one experiencing a negative emotion, STOP what I’m doing and PRAY for help with my feelings. Perhaps even ask another person to pray for me.
- When the other person is the one with the negative emotions, first pray for myself to be filled with compassion for them, and then listen compassionately and pray for them. Also ask God to show me what I can do to help them.
As always, self-focused self-pity is destructive. When we’re other-focused, it’s amazing how much happier we are!