My beautiful latte from Café Nero at Waverly Station, Edinburgh, Scotland

Kindness is more effective than meanness anyday

I was in Starbucks earlier this week, getting a coffee after a very long day. It hadn’t been a bad day necessarily; just crazy and stressful. And the cute little barista girl had this nutty bubbly personality. I thought she was just adorable, and as I was waiting for her to make my coffee, I noticed that she was wearing a set of earrings in the shape of the symbol for the Deathly Hallows. I’m sure they’ve been around for years, but I’d never seen a set like that before. So I told her how much I loved them, and she looked really surprised for a moment. And thanked me because she’d made them herself. She went back to making my coffee, and we continued chatting, just idle talk, and she told me as she handed my coffee over that she wished more people were like me–nice.

That kind of stuck with me (that and the fact that she also likes Doctor Who, which makes her awesome). She was a sweet, cute little barista. Why wouldn’t you be nice to her? But I guess people are people, and working with the public tends to teach you that. I remember the days working behind a counter, at the mercy of whichever customer got there first. And I guess I understand the concept of being rude and mean to make an impression, because it absolutely leaves an impression–it’s just not usually the impression you want to be remembered for.

Given the choice, wouldn’t you rather be remembered as the nice customer?

My beautiful latte from Café Nero at Waverly Station, Edinburgh, Scotland

My beautiful latte from Café Nero at Waverly Station, Edinburgh, Scotland

Today’s verse is Ephesians 4:29.

Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.

This is something I think everyone struggles with, especially on bad days. Everyone has bad days. Everyone loses their cool. But I think this verse is talking about more than just the bad days. This verse is referring to a lifestyle. This is the way Christ-followers are supposed to behave. We’re not supposed to cut with our words; we’re supposed to build with our words. Everything we say should be encouraging and inspiring and helpful and kind. Now that doesn’t always mean that the people hearing it will respond in kind. They may get upset at us, but that’s up to them.

I can’t tell you how many times I have encountered unfriendly people who snap and bite and snarl because they want their way only to discover later that they are a professing Christian. That breaks my heart because as Christ followers we’re supposed to live a different kind of life. We’re supposed to know better than that. And I’m talking to myself here too because there are times when I get in a funk because my plans didn’t work out. There are times when I’ve gotten snappy with the lady on the other end of the telephone. But I hope I always try to be kind. I hope I always try to say good things. And when I don’t, I hope I always apologize.

Because there’s no disappointment like discovering a Christian behaving like that. Granted, just because we accept Christ doesn’t make us perfect. We’re still going to screw up, but our outlook should change. Our perspective should change. We shouldn’t use words and hurtful things to manipulate people anymore to get what we want; instead, we should trust that God will work things out the way He wants and it’s up to us to roll with the punches.

If you can walk into a place of business and be kind to everyone around you, you’ll be their biggest fan. I remember those customers when I worked at the WSU Library. I remember the ones who came in, who were kind, who were respectful, who were thoughtful and considerate. I remember them even now, and I haven’t worked there since 2006. But those people made me want to help them. Their kindness spurred me to do more for them than I needed to.

That’s what kindness does. It’s more effective than cruel manipulation any day, and it helps you build better relationships. And, what’s more, it helps you have a better day too.

So when you have the chance to get snappy today, don’t. When you’re faced with someone who you think is lazy and incompetent behind a counter and they’re not giving you the customer service you deserve, don’t get angry at them. Don’t take out your frustrations on them. You have no idea what’s going on in their lives. You have no idea what terrible troubles they’re facing right now. Be kind. Say something nice to them. Say something uplifting to them.

You’ll make their day, and I’m willing to bet that your day will probably get better too.

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Pile of pine cones at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Love mercy

When someone wrongs you, how do you respond? Do you get angry at them? Do you hold a grudge? Do you respond in kind? After all, if they’ve been mean to you, it’s only logical that you should be mean back, right? An eye for an eye?

Well, that’s not what we’re supposed to do. It feels right to reciprocate when someone does wrong to us, but it’s not the way we’re supposed to live. And it’s not what God expects from us.

Pile of pine cones at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Pile of pine cones at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Micah 6:8.

No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
    and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy,
    and to walk humbly with your God.

Yesterday we talked about doing what is right, and today we’re going to talk about what it means to love mercy. I would love to tell you that I have this figured out, but I don’t. Actually I struggle with this one a lot. Because I don’t have a problem loving people who are kind to me. It’s loving buttheads that comes hard.

If someone is unreasonable with me, I tend to think they’re just being difficult because they can. If someone is rude to me, I tend to think they’re stuck up and snobbish. If someone acts hateful or treats me like a lesser life form, I tend to treat them the same way. But that’s not what loving mercy is about.

Mercy is withholding just punishment. It means you don’t get what you deserve. The best example is what Christ did for us on the cross. He died a brutal, savage death in our place–in my place. I deserve to go to hell, but because Christ loved me and gave Himself for me, I don’t have to. That’s mercy. That’s God not giving me what I deserve.

God loves mercy. And God expects us to love mercy too.

God gives us mercy every day. I mean, unless you’re perfect all the time, you need mercy every hour. I do. Maybe you’re a better person than I am, but I think things I’m not supposed to. I think hurtful things. I think dangerous things. I say mean things. And each one of those expressions of discontent or attitude or pride demonstrate that I love making myself feel better more than mercy.

If loved mercy like I was supposed to, I would jump at the opportunity to forgive someone for how they hurt me. Loving mercy is being kind especially to the people who don’t deserve our kindness. And I’m not talking about running out your door and finding someone who you barely know and looking for ways to be kind to them. You can do that if you want, but I’m willing to bet that there’s someone in your life–someone you already know–who could use some mercy.

People are people everywhere. I know a couple of people who drive me insane. I just want to throttle them half the time, and the other half of the time I usually just try to ignore them. But neither response is very merciful.

And please don’t misunderstand. There’s also a verse in scripture about throwing pearls before swine. You don’t want to waste your time and effort investing in someone who is just going to turn around and attack you. But whether they attack you or not, whether they waste your time or not, you can still be kind in your dealings with them. And that’s what it means to love mercy.

So that’s my goal today. I want to love mercy. I want to focus on being kind to people around me, especially if they don’t deserve kindness. I want to look for opportunities to extend mercy to people around me, and then I want to be brave enough to tell them why. Because if you’re just being kind to people without them understanding why, what’s the point? But if they can wrap their head around the fact that you are choosing mercy over how the world says to live because you believe in Christ, you never know how that might change someone else.

Focus on what matters. Love mercy.