Melanie Svoboda: Unreflective loving

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And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 2 Timothy 2:24

“One day I came across this sentence: “Most people are kind, polite, and sweet-minded — until you try to get into their pew!” I like that for it acknowledges just how hard it is to be kind — even in church. Why is kindness so difficult?

For one thing, kindness is so darn close, so near at hand. It demands that I act in a selfless way to these human beings right in front of me or next to me: this coworker who cracks her gum all day, this elderly woman who talks incessantly, this teenage boy who is such a smart aleck, this next door neighbor who plays his music too loud…

Kindness is difficult because it is so concrete. It almost always makes some specific, personal demand upon us. Kindness says, “Help carry those groceries — now! Offer to change that tire — now! Run to the store for milk — now!” Kindness is usually obvious, too. There’s almost no mistaking kindness when you see it — or mistaking its absence when you do not…

Unreflective loving. That is a good definition of kindness. But how do we learn to be kind. How do we come to love unreflectively? We probably begin by seeing the kindness of others.

When I was growing up on our small farm in Ohio, for example, I was being instructed in the ways of kindness without even knowing it. My mother used to bake quite regularly. Two of her specialties were apple pies and rye bread. On many occasions I can remember her saying, “Take the Stevensons this loaf of bread,” or “Take this apple pie to Shinky” (the hired hand who lived on the farm next door).

When road workers were fixing our road under the hot summer sun, my mother sent us kids out with a pitcher of water or lemonade for them. Similarly, my father, who always had a big garden, was forever giving things away — beans, tomatoes, strawberries, corn. The example of my parents’ many acts of kindness of unreflective loving, made a lasting impression on me.”

Melanie Svoboda in Abundant Treasures: Meditations on the Many Gifts of the Spirit (New London: Twenty Third Publications, 2000) 58-59.

Special thanks to my good friend, John Stanley for his unreflective loving toward me. As a Daily Meditations reader, when he came across this gem of a post, he did not think twice. He scanned it and sent it over to me to enjoy and share. I love that guy. Such a kind brother!

As we are already into our second month on this topic, this post sums up what we have learned so far. Kindness is hard, and it may be best learned by watching it displayed in others. These people touch our lives deeply. Their behavior is second nature to them. To us, it is so beautiful it seems otherworldly.

The words “unreflective loving” particularly struck me.

Such people don’t calculate. Should I do a favor for a person? They just do it.

They don’t hold back. Will I run out of strawberries if I share some with my neighbor? They share the strawberries.

They don’t pick and choose who they will bless. Does that person deserve my sharing with them? They know that none of us deserve the kindness Christ showed us.

I think this is what the Apostle Paul meant when he instructed Timothy to “be kind to everyone” in today’s Scripture.

You can’t think before being kind or you will think your way out of kind living. While it may be hard at first, it actually gets easier as our role models show us.

I am convinced that the best way you and I can become unreflective lovers of people is to reflect on the love shown to us by Christ.

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32