Practice Being Kind

I love my coffee shop! Not only do they serve Stumptown coffee but they sell books too. Some of the books in the shop are bought straight out of Publisher’s Weekly. Others are bought from customers and then sold again at a great discount. (Don’t you think Stumptown owes me for the shout-out?)

One of the things I like is the quote they always have on a white board. Usually they are very well selected. This day it is this:

You can either practice being right or practice being kind. Attributed to Anne Lamott.

Somewhere we as a people seem to have gotten obsessed with being right. We are even willing to break relationships over the notion that how we perceive a thing is the right way to perceive it. Any other interpretation is wrong, or at least so we think.

Well, the truth of the matter, as I see it ;-), is that we are almost all “right” as far as it goes. I think we perceive things based on our life experiences. Our life experience has a lot to do with where we were and when we were there AND the level of our need to consider ourselves to be right. It is, for some people, critical to be right while others among us aren’t needy in this way.

I happen to believe that it is ever so much more important to be kind than right.

When I graduated from seminary, I had specialized in crisis counseling and conflict management.

I discovered in crisis counseling it was important to most people to be right. When/If I could help a person to see the crisis from a perspective of kindness, the crisis was averted to a degree. Then it became an issue to sit with them and listen while the chemistry in their body equalized somewhat. You may still have the crisis but you are more likely than not to be in a better place to work it through.

(A single person’s crisis like a bad diagnosis or the death of a loved one or the loss of a job, these are different from other types of crises.)

The same holds true for conflict management. I was sent in to try and heal broken churches, i.e., church splits. This was more difficult than crisis counseling because you have two groups each validating themselves and gaining legitimacy over the other. With two or more people in each group, when one person wavers through kindness, there is another to bolster them up in the “right way” to think and behave.

The last church, before I crashed and burned psychologically, was well on its way to healing. One of the leaders said, as I prepared to leave to take care of myself, that they had learned to love one another. That’s the power of kindness.

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