by Gina Butz
Sometimes as I think about this strange season we’re in and how much longer it’s going to be, I wonder how we will get through. What I keep coming back to is this: we need a lot more kindness.
We need to be kind to ourselves, and we need to be kind to others. In stores, online, in zoom calls and on the streets (from a safe social distance, of course). Our world needs more kindness if we’re going to get through this well.
We need kindness because we’ve never done this before. And when we do something for the first time, we don’t know what we’re doing. Which means we’ll feel lost and uncomfortable and incompetent. And the last thing we need right then is to put unrealistic expectations on ourselves to know what to do and be able to keep going just as we did before. No, we need someone to be kind to us. We need someone to be patient while we learn this new season.
We need kindness because this is scary. And when things are scary we get anxious. That’s normal. Some of us are more anxious than others for a lot of really good reasons-our health is poor, or our parents are old, or we have to work in hospitals. Whatever the reason, whether it makes sense to us or not, it’s understandable. When someone is scared, it doesn’t help to tell them not to be scared. They need empathy. They need someone to listen to their fears and tell them we’re with them.
We need kindness because it’s just too much sometimes. And when it’s too much, it’s not because we’re weak or we did it wrong or we stink at this. It’s too much because we weren’t made to live this way. Adrenaline is only supposed to last us so long — just enough to get away from the danger. We can’t get away from this danger. When we hit the wall (and we will), we need to be kind to ourselves about it.
We need kindness because this isn’t normal. But this is the only normal that we’re going to get for a long time, and that’s hard. Learning to live with that is discombobulating, which is a fantastic word but something none of us likes to feel. We’re living with little “t” trauma all the time. A lot of us feel disregulated. Kindness helps get us back to a healthy place.
We need kindness because we’re sad. The big, obvious losses we’re incurring are easy to note, but we tend to ignore the little ones. We did a zoom call the other night with old friends from overseas, and while it was a delight, the fact that they are here in my city and I can’t see them grieved me. Those little losses are like pinhole pricks in the bucket of our life; after a while, we’re drained and we don’t know why. Kindness acknowledges the holes and says, “no wonder you’re sad.”
And all of this makes us really tired in a way that surprises us a lot. Why are we so tired? Because of all the things. Because of unexpected homeschooling, and ridiculous amounts of pivoting, coupled with less positive relational connection than even the most introverted among us need. We need to be kind to ourselves when we’re tired. Because of course we’re tired.
So we carry all of that on us, often without realizing it. And that’s a heavy load, especially to carry for a long time. Extending kindness is like someone coming alongside us to acknowledge the impossible weight, lift the pack off, and give us permission to rest. Yes, we need to keep walking, but we also need to give ourselves and others the space to sit in that grace from time to time.
Maybe you’re taking this all in stride. Maybe you’ve moved through the grief and confusion and you’re in a place of acceptance. That’s good. But others are still struggling. Or will be struggling (including those of us who are doing well today — it might hit us again tomorrow). We need kindness because even though we’re all in this together, we’re not. Each of us is experiencing it differently, for a million reasons. And when someone else hits the wall in a way we don’t understand, they need kindness. Kindness gives everyone the space to be on their own journey in responding to this.
I hope we give it to them. Because kindness grows kindness. And when we are in a practice of extending kindness to ourselves in difficult seasons, then it’s our natural response to extend it to others.
As hard as this season is, that’s my hope — that this could be a time when we grow kindness like wildflowers. May this be a time when our ability to look each other in the eyes and simply see “beloved of God” before us grows exponentially. Kindness will help us get through it.
Originally published here.
Gina Butz and her husband, Erik, have served in full time ministry for 25 years, 13 of them in East Asia. They are currently raising their two third culture kids and an imported dog in Orlando, Florida, where Gina serves in global leadership development at Cru headquarters. Her first book, Making Peace with Change: Navigating Life’s Messy Transitions with Honesty and Grace, released in February. She blogs at www.ginabutz.com and loves to connect on Twitter and Facebook.