Legislating Kindness

Posted by Susan On October 13, 2020 ADD COMMENTS

Kindness comes in different sizes. I mean that sincerely.

Right now, the world is loudly clamoring their demands for “kindness.”  But ironically, the definition of what this means is as wide and varied as trying to order “coffee” at Starbucks. One person’s need for kindness may be completely different from another’s. Trying to perceive the differences is an infinitely difficult task– but absolutely essential to discern.

Christians really don’t have a choice about whether or not to practice the art of kindness. Galatians 5:22 tells us that kindness is one of the evidences that we are walking in the Spirit as we are commanded to do. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…” And yet as with all of God’s biblical commands, His concern is with the heart, not rote outward actions. I Samuel 16:7 is a constant reminder that God does not see as we see. While man focuses on outward appearance, God is only interested in the heart. Always.

Kindness is the very character of Spirit-led Christians. And yet there’s a way to practice kindness from the heart, and there’s also a way to merely cooperate with outward appearance. There’s a lazy way to practice kindness by rote behavior– and at the same time there’s a much harder, though much more rewarding way that involves the heart. 

The lazy way is to treat all humans as robots and make sweeping commands in a “one size fits all” action– but it always seems to end up with frustration, with punishing or ridiculing non-conformity. That’s because it’s impossible to force kindness upon people. Kindness cannot be legislated. It doesn’t work that way. Socialism in any form always undoes the very purpose it is supposedly crafted for. As we are seeing in our current culture, any socialized form of attempting to enforce acts of charity results in the very opposite of what is intended to do, causing division, jealousy, anger, accusation, contention.

The harder way is to make a severe effort to know the individual needs and limitations of others and act accordingly. For instance, if my husband were to bring his favorite Greek pizza home for dinner so I wouldn’t have to cook, it isn’t a kindness if he knows I have an aversion to feta cheese. If I gave a grandchild a new kitten for a gift, it wouldn’t be a kindness if I knew he had a severe allergy to cats. It wouldn’t be a kindness to surprise a friend with a fantastic view of the city skyline from the top of a giant ferris wheel if she has a fear of heights.

The current contentious issue is the mandate to wear masks, with “kindness” being thrown around carelessly as the one-size-fits-all reason for enforcement. And yet enforced acts of kindness are not necessarily kind. 

There are many who simply cannot wear masks– those who are claustrophobic; those who have been traumatized by violent rape; those who simply cannot get enough oxygen to breathe… and a host of other reasons, not the least of which is because it violates the freedom of the individual, leaving many depressed, despondent, or even suicidal. 

At the same time, there are those who are frail in health, have had recent surgery, have compromised immune systems, or are elderly and cautious who choose to wear masks. They too ought to be treated with kindness and respect. They owe no one an explanation.

In 2006, my Dad was diagnosed with a spurting mitrol valve (a heart valve.) He was in great physical condition otherwise, and I was confident he’d get through the surgery for valve replacement just fine. The night before, I called him to tell him I loved him. During the short conversation, he said he really wasn’t worried about heart surgery. The only thing he was terrified of was having “that mask” put on him. I’m ashamed to admit now that I scoffed, “Dad! It’s oxygen, for goodness sake! It’s for your own good! Just wear the mask!” To my shame, I didn’t advocate for him, I didn’t calm his fear. I had neglected searching out his greater need, and settled instead for the superficial one I thought was obvious.

As he was wheeled into surgery the next day, his already weakened heart couldn’t withstand the heart attack he had, brought on by panic at the moment when they put the mask on him. He died before they even started the surgery, and I will never be able to ask him what it was that had made him so afraid of the mask. 

In these recent days, I’ve been sworn at for not wearing a mask, even though I have a medical exemption. My husband and I have been refused breakfast (or even a cup of coffee) at a hotel because we weren’t wearing masks, even though we both have medical exemptions and my pre-diabetic husband develops diabetic symptoms if he does not eat regularly. And of course, we are forbidden to enter an airplane unless we have masks on, even though we both medical exemptions. 

My great hope is that in the midst of the current contention over something as simple as wearing a mask, a true spirit of kindness will be extended to our fellow man, understanding that people are individuals created individually by God. We are not robots. People have individual needs, individual fears, individual conditions, and individual experiences. Rape victims should never have to explain to strangers why they cannot wear a mask or be ridiculed for not wearing one. Those with PTSD should never have to explain why they cannot wear a mask or be ridiculed for not wearing one. Those who are severely claustrophobic, or deaf, or asthmatic, or depressed, or suffering from insufficient oxygen due to heart issues should never have to explain to strangers why they cannot wear a mask, nor be ridiculed for not wearing one. 

Kindness cannot be socialized. In these difficult days, we would do well to live by the wisdom of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 when it beckons us to love our fellowman according to the true definition of what love is: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

For Christians and non-Christians alike, the world would be a far better place if each of us lived by the wisdom of this biblical principle, and assumed the best in another, regarding each other with a heart of honest love that motivates true kindness. Because kindness cannot be legislated.


Powered by Facebook Comments

Leave a Reply

Spam protection by WP Captcha-Free