01 Sep Kindness in a time of derision
At present in our community, across the airwaves and across social media platforms, a great deal of shrill rhetoric and hate speech is spewing out. This is exhausting to consume.
Furthermore this kind of speaking and judging of one another (on all sides) does little to edify our thinking or doing or being.
For followers of Jesus we are confronted with the profoundly challenging call to care for those we don’t like and to embody kindness. I choose to use the word kind here, instead of love, because so often love language is watered down by sentimentality or confused with having certain emotions.
To be kind, to be loving towards neighbour and enemy and self, is to live out of a different sphere. It is choose to remember the dignity of the ‘other’, whoever we perceive the ‘other’ to be. And it is to choose the hard work of remaining respectful and caring, even towards those who don’t care for us or show us respect. It is the ongoing costly choice not to be shaped, or contorted into rage or venom, by the hate or derision of others.
For any who might think that this way of intentional kindness is about being weak or allowing violence to flourish, this is not the case. Choosing the way of intentional kindness is a bold resistance move against all forms of violence. I recently heard a fabulous interview by Krista Tippett with Ruby Sales. In this interview theologian Ruby Sales speaks in a profound way about this hard work choice of loving. Sales does so from within the context of being an African American surrounded by hate in the civil rights movement (and beyond). Within this interview Sales reflects on an old African American spiritual:
“That’s the meaning of the song ‘I love everybody. I love everybody in my heart. And you can’t make me hate you. And you can’t make me hate you in my heart.’ Now, that’s very powerful because you have to understand that this spiritual — it was an acknowledgement not only that we control our internal lives, but also it contested the notion of the omnipotent power of the white enslaver. That was very revolutionary and very profound.”
Often, I think, we need divine grace at work within us to even get close to this. This is because very often we need to know that we are beloved of the Divine, and know ‘love in our hearts’ before we can make any kind of authentic space for kindness towards others.
If you would like to take a break from the hate speech and fury that is filling our airwaves and social media streams, listening to this interview might be a great place to start.
Rev Dr Sally Douglas