I have heard some thought provoking sayings before from strong minded, kind people. I have read proverbs at least 15 times. Recently a quote caught my attention…..
“Be kind for everyman fights a hard battle.”
I wish I knew who had said it because this is a well distilled piece of wisdom. It has stuck with me like nothing else in this season of life. We have been preparing to foster, to do that I have been reading a book called The Connected Child. One of the main themes in this book is understanding the history of your child and why they react to things a particular way. Why they might behave a particular way on a constant basis. I want to give a few examples of this but in the way that the book presents them.
Your child hordes food : I horde food because I nearly starved to death in an orphanage. It was the most painful thing I have ever experienced and I fear it.
You give your child a dress and they seem happy about it, then they scream and yell and tell you they hate you : I am sorry the dress reminded me of my dad beating my mom and I was angry that I had to remember it.
Your child acts flirtatious or overtly sexual : I was taught that the only way I can get any kind of positive attention or food was when I did things like that.
Your child is overly aggressive and has trouble sleeping : I am this way because if I fell asleep or showed weakness the other boys in the orphanage would beat me and take the few things or food I had.
Be kind for everyman fights a hard battle…..
Hopefully the majority of us will never have anything like what is happening to these children occur in our own lives. Yet, I can not help but feel that if we thought about each other in this way, how much less violence would be visited upon individuals? Compassion and empathy sees the connections and the hidden history even if you have to guess a bit about it.
I think this breaks down into all aspects of life. Your wife greets you with a list of things that you did not do before you went to bed, instead of a good morning. Perhaps she felt unsafe or is being money conscious. Your client is frustrated with you even though you have been busting your hump over the past week, perhaps their boss is applying pressure to them. Your co-workers are unusually ill mannered, they maybe struggling with all manner of things in their personal life.
Seeing the connections the interwoven story. Speculating on that story with a bent towards compassion and thinking the best of those around you can be slightly dangerous. It puts you in a position to be taken advantage of or hurt. This caution should be thrown to the wind in preference to strong discernment skills and a willingness to absorb every offense thrown our way. Jesus absorbed the ultimate injustice, hatred, offense, and shame by way of his crucifixion and our salvation. Then he calls us to take up our cross.
When we look to ourselves and our dealings with each other, compassion and truth should flow like so much water. Let me say it this way. If you are a medic in the middle of a battle and you find a soldier who has been hurt in a fiery explosion. You can not tell if he is friend or foe. You have no idea if he is looking for one more enemy to stab in the throat before he slips off this coil. Do you help him despite the unknowns or do you rationalize that he might be an enemy and just let him die there in all the gore and violence?
I would never advocate for a lack of decrement or forsaking of ones priorities, to live life this way. If we are married or parents those individuals come first in preference of others. But, the need to be wholly committed to the principles of God and a discipline of constantly consuming his word and seeking to know it in the way that he intended is vital to this. Who else can guide us in life to open ourselves in compassion while still keeping priorities and overcoming the offense that is surly coming our way.
Without delineating any principles or doctrines that I as a simple layman am not qualified to articulate fully. I can say this, the main and plain thing, is that to operate within the will of God to truly know him and in turn act like him we must get back to the Word of God. Not in a way that sensationalists money driven teachers, dogma driven hate mongers or blatant disregarders of the truth might. They, taking sections of the word of God out of context, but honest to goodness study of the whole of scripture. Not for the gaining of head knowledge or entertainment but that we might be forever changed by the creator into what he intended.
Why bring this up when talking about empathizing and having compassion on those around you? Because the only one that knows all is God and to live a life this way effectively you have to be taking your cues from him and not man. This is the connection that we can all have. Often we forget that all people, all around us, experience the gamut of life. From pleasure to pain, success and failure, soundness of mind and madness. Yet we forget, we pass judgement, we think less of those around us and eventually compounding the pain of all.
Then we come to it the hardest part of this. Someone has to absorb the pain, offenses and hurts inflicted upon them. Indeed someone operating in truth and love has to look at our fellow human and say you look hurt and it runs out of you like smoke and fire. I can take it, I can say truthful things in love, I can go the extra mile for you, I can stretch out a hand in the filth and help lift you up and show you the light. Because first someone did this for me and I want to show you him.
What does it look like to live like this? It looks like telling your friend you think they are headed down the wrong path with deep love. It looks like serving in your church with few resources because someone needs ministering to. It looks like complying with an unduly noisy neighbor with a smile. It looks like taking care of a mess without saying a word even though a few moments before you were waylaid by the mess maker for your own mess. It looks like kindness, consideration, respect, and yes even allowing others to take advantage of you for the one singular chance that that fire that burns inside of you might light theirs.
I would never want to leave this with some simple proclamations without backing it up with scripture.
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” Matthew 7:24 NIV
My general go to for when I am advocating application of the scripture.
A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense. Proverbs 19:11 NIV
I feel this one is self explanatory.
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:27-36 NIV
I love this because it is so counter intuitive. We as humans say I won’t hurt you if you won’t hurt me. Here is our savior saying instead “DO” unto others. Then he has his whole dissertation where he explains it in practical terms.
Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. Luke 6:30-31 NIV
Here is the “DO” to others pulled out.
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:31-32 NIV
Ah! and then there is the crux, “forgive as you have been forgiven.”
Without much fan fair this has blessed you in the same way writing it has blessed me.