When Kindness Raises its Head

When Kindness Raises its Head May 2, 2012

In seminary, we learned that people are often angry with, or have other issues with their pastor, we had to expect that people with daddy issues would probably have an issue with their pastor, people who were hurting could take it out on their pastor and be overly critical and/or defensive. One of the interesting thoughts regarding this that I still remember today, is that while as a pastor’s family we were supposed to listen to the endless concerns and criticisms, we were to remember that whatever they were saying was often more about them than it was about us. It was information, just information about that person.

I’ve been reminded of that principal once again as I’ve read the commentary my latest series has produced. Sometimes the angry comments baffle me. (You can see what I am talking about here where this story was linked on Yahoo along with a misleading and inaccurate title) (This is also a great example of comments that I will not publish! : ) Yes, some readers seem to jump at the chance to leave a commentary of crude jokes, but are there really so many people that get angry purely because we exist? I think there may be a bit more to it.

Many people seem to read a story as they would Aesop’s fables. Looking for “the moral of the story”, and trying to figure out how this applies to their life. I’ve seen this approach used in reading the bible, instead of reading the bible as information, people begin to try and find the point, the moral, the “should” that applies to their lives, and we end up with warnings against gluttony lest we turn out like poor Esau who cared more about food than his birthright.

I think that many may be tempted to read our story in that way, seeing it as a prescription of sorts. Or maybe description of how a struggle like ours can best be handled. But is there really one right way? If my spouse happened to be overwhelmingly attracted to men, or if I were actually completely straight, and we had decided to split amicably would that somehow be a “bad” ending? No. I don’t think so. Every story and every person is different. Saying that every couple in which one partner is transgender must stay together through transition would be presumptive and sad. Our story is not better than anyone else’s, our story is not how it is “supposed” to turn out. It’s just our story.

And this appears to be how most of you read our story. You were willing to hear me out, and think about it instead of feeling like the story was a projection onto you somehow. You were able to recognize the real dilemmas and questions that came with this journey, even if you feel you would have answered those questions differently. You were willing to see the reasons we made the choices we did. You were able to take our story as information, about something you may not even have known that much about. And here at my blog, even when you did not affirm our conclusions, you chose kindness.

One of the comments on the final post of the series struck me as an accurate observation of what happened here:

“I have a slightly different take on everything I’ve read here than that which I’ve seen from other posters leaving comments.

I agree with the vast majority – your story is amazing. It is full of hope and love and moments of perfect beauty, and I enjoyed reading every line.

But what I find even more striking and comment worthy are, in fact, the comments that have been left for you.

I am an agnostic bisexual woman happily married for 10 years this coming Friday to a bisexual man. So yes, very LGBTQ-friendly here. I’ve been advocating for LGBTQ equality since I attended my first Pride parade in Chicago when I was 14. I’ll be 41 later this month. In that time, I’ve had countless negative experiences with individuals who identify as ‘religious.’ Those experiences can turn the brightest heart black and heavy after a while… and on more than one occasion I’ve found my own thoughts towards those who identify as religious to be in complete conflict with everything else I believe and hold true.

But I have to say to you, and especially to your commentators – sitting here reading these comments has done more to heal my own prejudices against “people of faith” than anything else ever has. I see people walking the talk I believe Jesus exemplified. I hear the loving grace in their words and their intentions. I see faith that is rooted in love, not dogma or doctrine or the dictates of man on behalf of a god created in THEIR image.

I find it humbling. I find it uplifting. I find it gives me hope. And I find it beautiful.

Thank you for creating a space where I could see and experience that… and thank you to the commentators for sharing their light in support of you and your beloved spouse and children.

I wish you all love and joy… and above all, peace.”

It’s a simple idea, being respectful to oneself and others,
treating others as you would wish yourself to be treated.
But I believe it is revolutionary.
Every person who chooses kindness makes a little difference in the world, and if every act of kindness has the power to make this life more livable, than we can change the world by being kind,
one reaction at a time.

Kindness–  by Naomi Shihab Nye

Before you know what kindness is
You must lose things,
Feel the future dissolve in a moment
Like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
What you counted and carefully saved,
All this must go so you know
How desolate the landscape can be
Between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
Thinking the bus will never stop,
The passengers eating maize and chicken
Will stare out of the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
You must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
Lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
How he too was someone
Who journeyed through the night with plans
And the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
You must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it tell your voice
Catches the thread of all sorrows
And you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
Only kindness that ties your shoes
And sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
Only kindness that raises its head from the crowd of the world to say.
It is I you have been looking for,
And then goes with you everywhere
Like a shadow or a friend.

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