There is a part of me which wishes that I did not need a chapter on kindness in my Rule of Life. I wish I were so innately kind to myself and others that I would need not have a reminding passage in my Rule on the subject. I wish I were so Holy, so like my savior, that the chapter need not be read every few weeks. And I am, indeed a kind person. But still, I want to remember, to remind myself regularly, that kindness is the great longing I have on this planet and so I might as well work hard to exhibit it, since I may or may not find it from others. And I need as much to be kind to myself as to others. For I am often not kind to myself. I need to make myself more crumpets and eat more Devonshire Cream on Scones. And take more naps. And look at the mirror and be pleased. And get more massages.
I am a Christian, not a Buddhist. And yet I will always wish I had more kindness from Buddhism, more beauty from Orthodoxy and more fervor from Judaism. So I need to work hard to have and keep Buddhists in my life as friends so that their life of kindness may influence my life.
And remember that kindness goes very deep. It is not a Hallmark-greeting-card moment of gentle-smile-door-holding. Kindness can be fierce. Kindness may, if we use Jesus as our model, be a fierce kindness to people when the church is unkind. Overturn some tables, even in kindness. And kindness is what happens when you are not seen, so be kind to your black lab Kai when you are tempted, in an over caffeinated furor, to pull on his leash as he sniffs – he is busy being a dog, let him. Be kind to him. He is only ever kind to you.. And remember too that most of what you have learned about kindness, Kai taught you.
Says George Sand, “Guard well within yourself that treasure, kindness. Know how to give without hesitation, how to lose without regret, how to acquire without meanness.” Remember that kindness is your treasure, not money, not prestige, not possessions and not power. And yet, people will give you power when you are kind to them, so use it wisely and with great care.
For better or worse, you are a priest. It is your calling and yet, it has been a hard one. Bishops have been kind and others hateful and stupid. Bishops have been bright and capable and others creepy and manipulative. As with priests. As with some congregants. As with everyone. Be kind but do not be naive, gullible or used.
Yes, some will be unkind to you. Yes, you have been lied about, manipulated and lied to- everyone has. And that will keep happening because the church is in such anxiety as she changes in these years. And it would be easy for you to become unkind in the face of so much ecclesial horror. But remain kind. Make it a game if you have to – simply see if every unkindness can be met by you with especially more kindness in response. That work will be your part in bringing peace to the planet.
And write. And preach. And do these things with kindness. As you fill your fountain pen and your printer cartridges, bless that little liquid for it can do great harm and great good. Remember the words of encouragement from Nelson Mandela, “A good head and good heart are always a formidable combination. But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special.” So write, yes. Write with fervor. But write kindly remembering that you have no idea what others have suffered, are suffering, will suffer. So make your smile and your words kind. And when you can’t be kind, at least be silent until you can again be kind.