Savage Pacer columnist Sheriff Ahmed recently wrote about the importance of kindness in his Nov. 20 column. This article is about how hard it can be to be kind.

Anyone who’s worked on a group project, hosted extended family, or lived through middle school knows how exhausting — and unsatisfying — taking the high road can be. I hear my college friend, stuck in the middle of a dating triangle, saying “Why do I have to be the mature one?”

Kindness — or emotional maturity — is not always a warm fuzzy experience. Kindness can feel like it costs you much more than it helps the people and world around you. Kindness may even feel like you are blessing injustice and letting awful people off the hook.

I often turn to Romans 12 in moments like these. Of the whole chapter, my favorite verse is this: “If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Rom 12:18 NRSV)

I love that Paul is practical. Kindness isn’t always going to turn hearts or make things better. Peace is not always going to happen. But for your part, make sure the ingredients the Holy Spirit needs to create a miracle peace are there for her to use. Just in case.

This is exactly the kind of self-differentiation family system theory teaches too. It’s made up of two parts — distance that holds the boundaries we personally need for health and wholeness while keeping the closeness/connection that makes miracles of change possible within the larger family system.

Kindness is the connection point in that way of relating. For those who feel like kindness is blessing injustice, I have yet to hear of someone changing their heart or mind from constant picking. Even from the best of intentions, that kind of experience makes most of us humans defensive and probably more committed.

Kindness, however, especially when unexpected, can have an unbalancing effect. It can make space for a question mark where there’s been only an exclamation point. It is the holy space where curiosity might bubble up, conversation start, a connection form.

Go back to your paper from Nov. 20 and read Sheriff’s column! Here’s the thing about life. The world will make sure that we are unfairly and unjustly hurt.

A colleague of mine posted an image on her Facebook page, and it’s stuck with me ever since. It depicts a girl with countless arrows in her back comforting a distraught girl with only one arrow in her back. Think about that pain.

The girl with all the arrows could have mocked the tears of the girl with just one. Or passed by in the satisfaction of one arrow finally tasting what she’s dealt with all her life. Instead, she chooses kindness. Kindness is a generous choice.

Think about that peace. The girl with all the arrows has found a way to live with the unjust harm life brings. For me, this is the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guarding my heart and mind in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7 NRSV).

What is it for you? Whatever it is, I hope you find it, cultivate it, and hold onto it. Because the one gift our world needs is to be unbalanced by kindness — especially when it’s hard and undeserved. Who knows, maybe your kindness will be just the ingredient Holy Spirit needed to make a miracle of peace this holiday season.

Kate Payton is pastor at Glendale United Methodist Church in Savage.

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