Sunday, April 24, 2011

Kindness and Hypocrisy

Repentance involves a certain pretending, a certain holy hypocrisy. In order to love your enemies--and your enemies are more often members of your house than they are murderers and thieves and strangers--you can’t rely on your feelings. Popular culture tells us that love is a feeling, but the Christian saints tell us that love is a choice. Love is what you do regardless of how you feel.
There are times in life when those we love the most are very hard to like. How do we love someone we don’t even like?
A wise priest once said to my wife, “You don’t have to like someone to be kind to them.” Kindness like the other fruit of the Spirit describes how we behave and respond to others and our disposition within ourselves. Kindness (and joy, peace, self control, mercy, etc.) are not dependent on whether or not we like the people who are around us. The fruit of the Spirit is dependent on (… wait for it…) the Spirit. It is dependent on our relationship with God.
When I explain this to people sometimes they complain to me that such behavior is hypocritical. Generally, I can only agree with them--but then again, a lot depends on how you define hypocrisy. I like to point out to those with this complaint that the human mind along with its emotions is very fickle. Contradictory and absurd ideas float through and often lodge in our minds. Moods swing depending on blood sugar, monthly cycle, sleep cycle and (for some) success or failure of sports teams, stock markets, business deals, political ideals or even the perceived likes or dislikes of others. Not to be a “hypocrite,” not in some way to monitor our behavior so as not to subject those around us to the tyranny of our passing feelings and thoughts, that is the ultimate hypocrisy.
The practice of kindness is both a craft and an art. We learn how to love. And part of that learning process is a sort of modeling, a sort of practice, a sort of doing what doesn’t feel natural but is kind.

1 comment:

Christopher said...

Well stated