We left at O-dark-thirty to fly to O’Hare then on to State College, PA. Taking advantage of Ian’s extra long winter break, he and I are visiting my Mother and Dad. (And also my siblings and many of Ian’s cousins) Even though both flight legs were on time, our trip has been far from stress-free.
Ian prefers to travel “solo” even when with someone. I think he loves the anonymity of an airport. He can pretend to be whoever he wants to be and his story doesn’t define him. Until it does. On the first flight, our seats were separated and he was out of my view. With me in the back and Ian closer to the front I made a mental note to check his area when exiting, to be sure he collected his belongings.
Upon deplaning I noticed his bag still in the overhead bin above his seat. I got his down pushing his ahead of me and my own behind. Inside the terminal I met up with Ian who had a bag with him, a bag that wasn’t his. And before having a chance to point out his error, a very enraged woman got off the plane screaming with appalling language… “I saw that man take it,” she said pointing with hateful disdain towards Ian. She had a security person with her and was determined to make a scene. There was no benefit of any doubt. Ian was the idiot and intended to make her day miserable.
Culture of Meanness
Her behavior was a stark reminder of a culture of meanness that has cropped up around us. It’s a meanness that is fueled by an attitude of self-importance and a complete disregard for the other person. The witch woman decided, “What I feel is the only thing that matters. I have no empathy for you. If you are in the way, I will run you over.” This meanness is the stuff of playground bullies or whispering coeds or bosses who mistreat their employees.
Ian, in shock, lost all ability to explain. Big-eyed and red-faced, his groveling apology did little to appease her hostility. Even though my mama bear instincts kicked into overdrive, I too fell into stunned silence.
If she only knew… I wanted to scream back adding my own colorful superlatives. But I didn’t.
Surprised by Kindness
Instead, Ian and I froze. After she was long gone, and the stares from the crowd subsided, I discreetly explained what had happened to the security officer. His response was gentle and gracious. “Without knowing any of that,” he said, “I was most surprised by your kindness.”
The security officer gave me way too much credit. The truth is, had there not been an audience and my desperate need to protect Ian from further humiliation, I would have fallen into her trap of mean. I was on the brink of an epic cat fight complete with hair pulling and name calling.
What just happened?
Waiting at our next gate, my emotions settled and I quietly and prayerfully processed the incident. I thanked God for Ian’s resilience who was already cat-napping and for the security officer whose presence added some sanity to it all. I tried not to, but my mind drifted to witch woman, whose angry face, even days later, still haunts me. What was her problem? I decided, she undoubtedly had her own broken story.
I’ve been guilty, too
For me, when stress is high, my fuse is short. Almost without fail when I behave badly, I can trace it back to other things not going my way. I can recall plenty of times when I, like witch woman, didn’t exhibit restraint let alone, kindness.
Kindness isn’t easy. Instead, mean is easy. Mean is a weak person’s attempt to wield power and importance. The braver more courageous choice and the one that requires more strength of character is to be kind.
In my view, kindness, is underrated. We equate it with being sweet, nice and pleasant. Kindness includes a lot of smiling, pretending to agree and being careful to not ruffle feathers. It seems to be a rather mundane virtue.
Bible’s view of Kindness
But the Bible presents a very different view of kindness. When Paul laid out his case to the church in Corinth that he was a true apostle, he did so by detailing the trials he endured for the sake of the gospel. As a result, he names the God produced spiritual fruit in his life. (2 Corinthians 6:1-13). Kindness made the list.
It was as if Paul says to the church he wants to influence and encourage, “You want proof I’m an apostle? Notice this… I’m kind.”
Real kindness is supernatural and a gift of the Spirit. It’s a generous orientation of our hearts toward other people, even when they don’t deserve it and are not kind in return. Kindness holds hands with love and grace. It’s magnanimous and not dependent on who is right or who is wrong. No wonder it doesn’t come naturally.
The Apostle Paul wrote that we are to make kindness part of our daily wardrobe. It is as if each day we put on our attitude just as we do our clothing.
Colossians 3:12 12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
Kindness is the perfect salve for our broken and hurting world. It’s the secret sauce to improve any interaction and relationship. My mother used to tell me, kill ‘em with kindness. It’s a strategy that I still use today. And yes, it’s often effective.
Best of all… it’s contagious
My kind parents, with advanced Parkinson’s and miserable life circumstances, live depending on the support of many people. As I observe their hourly interactions I see proof that kindness begets kindness. The way I see it… our attitudes are contagious. Our grumpiness, our meanness our joy and our kindness are all contagious. And it’s up to each of us to consider how we will infect the people around us.
This week, you and I will both face people who will step on our toes. Someone will say something snarky. Your spouse may be thoughtless. The TSA agent will get snippy. But you? You have a choice what to do next.