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Kindness with Ourselves

by: Chris Austin

Be kind to the writer! Here at the end of the “holiday season”, to have first crack at some words of wisdom about kindness as Greystone reflects on this topic for 2020? Please! And about being kind to ourselves? It’s hard enough being kind to others, but to ourselves too. Please!

Here goes. Maybe you remember Henry James from American lit. class (maybe not!). The following was attributed to him: “Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.” Not a bad idea, particularly in these days. And we also need to extend this kindness to ourselves.

Why? Because we really need to, particularly at this time of year. It’s the start of a new year. While we are just leaving the Advent and Christmas seasons, we don’t leave hope at all. We hope and long for so much better in the coming year. For better or worse our culture has set us up to make resolutions for a “better” us. Unfortunately, many of these hopes are dashed upon the rocks of reality by the time we honor Martin Luther King, Jr. on the third Monday of January. 

Fortunately, if we are kind to ourselves, these hopes don’t have to be dead in the water. Just because we were gung-ho and then faltered at whatever it is that is a thorn in our side, doesn’t mean that we failed. We still have a choice as to whether push the thorn in deeper, leave it as is, or try to extract as much of it out as we can.

To put it in a biblical context, think of yourself as John Mark in the book of Acts. Yeah, he quit on his first trip, another thorn in Paul’s side. But then think of yourself as being more like Barnabas than Paul.  Paul effectively quit on John Mark, but John Mark didn’t quit on himself; nor did Barnabas write him off. They both took up the journey again. 

Amid failures and setbacks, instead of seeing ourselves as failures, we need to be kind to ourselves and press ahead and not just quit. See setbacks as momentary blips, not as “I undid everything because of what I just did”.  Chances are you didn’t. Be kind. I’m OK, You’re OK. And remember that Jesus loves us, for better or worse, as we are. Maybe that is enough in itself to make us want to be better and kinder to ourselves and others.