8 02 2017

Kindness is considerably underrated as a characteristic. Not as elegant as love, as risqué as passion, or as productive as activism, kindness often sits somewhere around beige in the colour-spectrum of attributes. It just sounds a bit… boring.


Kindness. It’s so everyday, though. Love is special, passion is exciting, activism is life-changing, but kindness…? Those little everyday things. Holding a door open. For the third person that pushes through. Not scowling when the parent pushes the pushchair out from between the parked cars to cross the road – smile and wave them across. Clearing away someone else’s coffee cup in the staff room. Checking the person you fouled in football is ok. A kind word, a hello, noticing people.

Like the socks that prevent your feet from chafing, the sip of water that eases your voice, or a glimpse of sunshine on a dull day. Nothing major. Probably not many people will notice.

But these everyday little things are so very important. That’s why kindness is nestled in the middle of the things called the fruits of the spirit in the bible, between patience and goodness. It’s not a hierarchy. It’s called living, in community, living looking outwards, seeing others, noticing them, and just being kind.

We live in a busy world amidst so many demands and so much impatience and so much unkindness. To live well within this world, and to challenge it, I think it is good to practice inner calm, through mindfulness, but also to spread calm through it’s outward-looking twin, kindfulness. It’s only small. But small is good. Start now.


shortcut to well-being

28 01 2014


Chilled drinks, eggs, well-being. Aisle no.5, please. I didn’t realise it was so simple. You can buy well-being off the shelf, which according to this aisle, generally involves being free-from things. 

Whilst being a bit tongue in cheek, there’s something quite profound here. In a world in which we are constantly labelled as consumers, apparently happy as long as we’re devouring, there’s a deep craving for well-being. Which is what, exactly? A utopian dream? The bare minimum?

Well-being has nothing to do with over-priced branded durum wheat. And everything about the depth of peace in your soul. How often do we hear people returning from trips abroad to work with those in deep poverty and hear them be amazed at how the people could still smile, laugh, have faith, be. Without wifi? Granary bread? TV? And yet we forget. It confuses us because we revert to being consumers demanding well-being off the shelf.

God says we must work at it.

The Jewish faith have this concept of shalom. It’s a greeting, yes, it means ‘peace’, sort of. Because it means so much more. Shalom is the knowledge that everything is as God would have it be. Shalom is the knowledge of true peace. It is a dream, yes. Can it be reality? Yes. It is bought off the shelf? No.

This is where we cannot simply consume.

This was brought home to me sharply by a friend who is a foster parent. Those of us involved in fostering and adoption know a lot about well-being, shalom, and the results of a lack of it. He passed this on to me (from Pete Greig – Emmaus Rd podcast 19th Jan:

Here are some symptoms of adults who didn’t form appropriate attachments as a child:
1. Broken relationships
2. Depression
3. Anxiety
4. Sensitivity to rejection
5. Anger
6. Higher ratio of criminality
7. Commitment phobia
8. Violence
9. Instability & addictive patterns.
And here is a list you might recognise which has more-or-less exact opposites to the above (compare them for yourself):
1. Love
2. Joy
3. Peace
4. Patience & forbearance
5. Kindness
6. Goodness
7. Faithfulness
8. Gentleness
9. Self-control.
(Galatians 5 – fruits of the spirit)

Neither he nor I are in any way saying we’ve discovered our own quick-fix to well-being. Be a Christian, be filled with the Spirit, you’ll be fine. Bingo. I’m not that naive. But it is interesting. It is interesting that God has a deep interest in our well-being because he has a deep interest in shalom because he deeply loves us. And when you love, you want the best.

God’s plan for us is that of shalom. When he saved us from sin, that wasn’t saving us from each individual act of naughtiness that we so often equate it with. No, he was saving us from a world in which there could never be peace because the very core of our being was ridden with cancer of selfishness that comes from being apart from God. Like cancer, we can do our best to remove bits that destroy shalom but if it’s in the blood, it will return. No matter how many gyms we join, well-being foods we eat and Facebook petitions we sign. Evil will out. 

Being saved is the new life that means the infection is gone and shalom is possible. Shalom is not a given. It is a life’s work. But it is a source of great hope. Great hope that even those with the most terrible of beginnings can find peace; hope that those who live in the midst of great darkness can find a peace within it; and that in the end, shalom is better than stuff.

Even the stuff from aisle no.5. 

%d bloggers like this: