Live & Learn – Teaching

Quote

“View life as a continuous learning experience.”
~Denis Waitley

Thoughts

In preparing for today’s message I hit a roadblock. I poured over my collection of quotes and none of them touched my heart. Each time I chose a quote, that’s as far as I could get. Nothing moved me. I couldn’t think of anything to say. Each quote simply became empty words on a page.

Starting with the quote and developing a message didn’t seem to be working. So, I thought I might try thinking about a particular topic that I might want to explore, then researching the quotes that would apply to the topic. This, too, proved to be an unsatisfactory and unproductive endeavor.

“So, what’s next?” I thought. That’s when it came to me…practice what you preach. I set aside the papers and books and pens, and took a walk. I took time to connect with God in all the beauty that was around me. I took time to notice how the sky was clear and blue. I marveled at the varying shades of green, yellow, gold, and purple on the leaves of the trees. And, I got silent. I focused inward in a little prayer and meditation.

Answers in the Silence

It was in this silence that I came to some realizations. Over the last several years I’ve embarked on a wonderful journey of learning and exploration. In my exploration I’ve come to realize that much of what I’ve been taught about God, and Jesus, and even the Bible no longer ring true. Through study and reading I have found that I’ve hit a turning point. Since the literal teachings of my past no longer have the same meaning – I am faced with a choice. I can simply abandon my beliefs. Or, as Bishop John Shelby Spong puts it, I can “seek the God-experience which I believe lies underneath the biblical and theological explanations that through the ages have attempted to interpret Jesus.”

The first option leaves me feeling empty, alone, and cold. So, it is the second path that I have chosen. I have dedicated a good portion of my life to learning about, and building a relationship with God. By choosing to seek the God-experience, I will expand my knowledge of and my relationship with God in ways I never before could have imagined.

This path does come with its share of angst. I must let go of the past. But, it is also filled with the excitement and wonder of embracing and getting to know God on a much more personal level.

Our Challenge

In my life there have been people who I respect and who have taught me valuable lessons. One such person is Pastor Bruce, a minister at the Presbyterian Church I attended years ago. What I admired about him was the fact that he didn’t set himself up as an all-knowing authority simply because he had the title of Pastor.

When he delivered his messages, he always challenged his listening audience to not just take his word for it, but to read and study the Scriptures themselves – and to listen to what God has to say to them.

This has also been my challenge to you. Don’t just take my word for it. Read and study, pray, and listen to what God says to you.

Closing Thoughts

Turning to Scripture, I find that there are several messages regarding continuous learning in the Book of Proverbs. The Book of Proverbs is one of the Wisdom Books and is frequently attributed to Solomon. Many theologians and scholars suggest that Proverbs may have been written by someone else, or even by several people over time. Regardless of the author, In Chapter 1 Verse 5 we read, “A wise man will hear and increase learning.” Chapter 10 Verse 14 says, “Wise people store up knowledge.” And in Chapter 18 Verse 15 we are told, “The heart of the prudent acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” Obviously, Solomon, or whoever the author was, placed a high importance on learning and knowledge. I believe we should, too.

Our growth and our experience with God rests in our learning. It is a continuous experience and a wondrous journey. It is a journey in which we can learn from and teach each other. Though, at times, we may take different paths, we’re all on the same journey. I challenge myself, and I challenge you, to constantly seek the knowledge and the truth of God.

Scripture

  • Proverbs 1:5
  • Proverbs 10:14
  • Proverbs 18:15

Join the Discussion

How do you feel about continuous learning? What are your thoughts about moving away from a strict, literal view of Scripture and delving into meaning behind and beyond the literal word? Feel free to comment. And, if this message resonates with you, feel free to share it.

Love Lives On – Teaching

Each of us has experienced the loss of a loved one – and none of us can escape the reality of the pain associated with that loss. However, as long as we remember, our loved ones are never truly gone – they live on through us.

Quote

Cicero said:

The life of the dead is placed in the memories of the living.
The love we feel in life keeps people alive beyond their time.
Anyone who has given love will always live on in another’s heart.
~Criminal Minds Episode

Thoughts

As I was reading through my collection of quotes preparing for today’s service, today’s quote jumped out at me. The timing seemed perfect, almost divinely guided, because our family experienced loss this week.

My children’s grandmother, their mother’s mother, Valerie, passed away. She had been living with and battling the effects of Multiple Sclerosis for almost forty years. Finally, on August 14th, her body gave up the fight.

A Living Example

Upon hearing of Valerie’s death, I called my children’s mother, Julie, to offer my condolences and support. Having lost my step-father, mother, and father, I know all too well the pain and loss she was feeling. As we talked, we had the opportunity to share some of our memories. I even reminded Julie that when I chose to be baptized at the age of 18, her parents were my Godparents. Of course, Julie remembered. I also shared that although Valerie and I hadn’t seen each other very often over the last 20+ years, when we did, three things about her always stood out to me – her smile, her laugh, and her love. Those memories will stay with me always.

As I began to think about Valerie, I realized how true this week’s quote really is. I also realized just how much of an example Valerie was, and will continue to be, to me and to many others. Philippians 2:14 says, “Do all things without complaining…”; 1 Thessalonians 5:16 says, “Rejoice always”; and 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “…in everything give thanks”. To me, Valerie was a living example of these scriptures.

For the last several years of her life Valerie was, for the most part, bed-ridden. When it was possible, she would join family functions, securely strapped into her wheelchair. But, no matter what was happening, or how her body betrayed her, Valerie chose to live life as fully as she could. I never heard her complain; she always had a smile; she was quick to laugh; and she freely shared her love with everyone around her. And, regardless of any physical limitations, when she was able to attend family functions, even if it meant being strapped into a wheel chair, she was so grateful simply to be able to be there. Attending events like my daughter’s wedding and birthday parties for her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren filled Valerie with so much joy. And, when she wasn’t able to leave her bed, the family would gather around her in her room and she would laugh and play with the children, visit with the adults, and share stories.

No matter what was happening to her body, no matter how much it betrayed her, she chose to be full of life. It was that joy, that fullness of life, and her simple gratitude that defeated the limitations of her body.

Love Lives On

Ephesians 5:1&2 says, “Follow God’s example in all you do because you are His dear children. Live a life of love…” And, 1 John 4:16 says, “…God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.”

When I remember Valerie, I will remember her smile, her laugh, and her love – her love for life and her love of family. Her life was an example of God’s love – God residing in her, and she in God. And, through her example, she has left a lasting legacy of love in the hearts and minds of those who knew her. It is through this example that she will live on. Her life is now in the memories of those of us who remain. And, though she’s no longer with us physically, Valerie will live on in our hearts.

Closing Thoughts

The cost of living is that we must suffer the pain of the loss of those who are dear to us. Their journey in this life is over, and ours must continue on. The pain of loss is real. A dear friend once described grief as a roller coaster ride – it has its ups and downs, and it can, at times, be scary. But, with time, the ride slows down and the pain softens. Our memories, and sharing them with others, help to ease the pain. When we remember and share, and when we take lessons that we’ve learned and model them in our own lives, we become a living testimony to those we’ve loved and lost. They truly live on in us. Valerie now joins with my step-father, my mother, my father, my granddaughter, my first “husband,” and countless others who will always have a place in my heart, and who will live on, in some small way, through me – and I am thankful to have known her.

Scripture

  • Philippians 2:14
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:16
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:18
  • Ephesians 5:1&2
  • 1 John 4:16

Join the Discussion

Please feel free to add your thoughts. And, if this message resonates with you, please feel free to share it.

Love Lives On – Quote

Each of us has experienced the loss of a loved one – and none of us can escape the reality of the pain associated with that loss. As long as we remember, our loved ones are never truly gone – they live on through us.

Quote

The life of the dead is placed in the memories of the living.
The love we feel in life keeps people alive beyond their time.
Anyone who has given love will always live on in another’s heart.
~Cicero, Criminal Minds Episode

 

To Forgive, Divine – Teaching

Over the last several weeks we’ve explored such aspects of love as kindness and courtesy. Today, I’d like to explore one of the most important and, often, most difficult aspects of love – Forgiveness.

Quote

Our quote this week is by Corrie Ten Boom, a survivor of the Nazi Holocaust:

“Forgiveness is to set a prisoner free,
and to realize the prisoner was you.”

Thoughts

What is Forgiveness?

Forgiveness is:

  • to give up resentment of or claim to requital for (some act or offense)
  • to cease to feel resentment against (an offender)

InternationalForgiveness.com puts it this way:

“To understand what forgiveness is, it is important to consider what forgiveness is not. The act of forgiveness does not suggest you have forgotten the injustice. Nor does it imply you condone or excuse the wrongdoer. You are not condemning; that only leads to forgiveness that stems from moral superiority. What’s more, you are not seeking justice or compensation.

When you forgive someone who has deeply hurt you, you let go of resentment and the urge to seek revenge, no matter how deserving of these things the wrongdoer may be. You give the great gifts of acceptance, generosity and love. Though the wrongdoer does not deserve these gifts, you don’t let that stand in your way. You give, not out of pity, not out of grim obligation. Rather, you give because you have chosen to have a merciful heart. A heart with the power to free yourself so you can live a better life.

Yes, forgiveness is a paradox—something that may sound illogical but still works. It is the foregoing of resentment or revenge when the wrongdoer’s actions deserve it. It is giving the gifts of mercy, generosity and love when the wrongdoer’s actions indicate that he/she does not deserve them. As we give the gift of forgiveness, we ourselves are healed.”

Why am I the Prisoner?

When we have been wronged, we feel morally justified in holding on to our hurt and our anger. Depending on the seriousness of the offense, we may feel a sense of moral indignation – “I have a right to be angry and no one is going to take that away from me.” Unfortunately, holding on to this anger, even hatred, is what makes us the prisoner. Think of a time when someone hurt you, maybe even severely; maybe you were robbed, or abused, or even raped. Do you have a right to be angry? Yes, of course. But, does holding onto that anger really serve you in the long run? No – not really. Is the person who hurt you affected by your anger? No. In fact, he or she has probably never given you a second thought. Your thoughts, opinions, anger, and hatred, no matter how justified, don’t impact him or her in any way. Who is it really hurting? You.

 Fruit of the Spirit

John 4:24 tells us, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” Galatians 5:22 & 23 tells us, “…the fruit of the Spirit (the fruit of God) is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, (and) self-control. Against such there is no law.” So, ask yourself…how does holding onto anger, hatred, bitterness, resentment, etc. add to your life? How does it bring you love? How does it bring you joy? How does it demonstrate patience and kindness? The list goes on, but you get the point.

Forgiveness & Health

Forgiveness isn’t just a spiritual thing, either – it isn’t just “good for the soul.” Forgiveness, or not forgiving, can have an impact on our health, too. In an article titled “Forgiveness: Letting go of Grudges and Bitterness,” The Mayo Clinic Staff (www.mayoclinic.com) has this to say:

“When someone you care about hurts you, you can hold on to anger, resentment and thoughts of revenge — or embrace forgiveness and move forward. Nearly everyone has been hurt by the actions or words of another. Perhaps your mother criticized your parenting skills, your colleague sabotaged a project or your partner had an affair. These wounds can leave you with lasting feelings of anger, bitterness or even vengeance — but if you don’t practice forgiveness, you might be the one who pays most dearly. By embracing forgiveness, you can also embrace peace, hope, gratitude and joy. Consider how forgiveness can lead you down the path of physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.

What is forgiveness? Generally, forgiveness is a decision to let go of resentment and thoughts of revenge. The act that hurt or offended you might always remain a part of your life, but forgiveness can lessen its grip on you and help you focus on other, positive parts of your life. Forgiveness can even lead to feelings of understanding, empathy and compassion for the one who hurt you. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you deny the other person’s responsibility for hurting you, and it doesn’t minimize or justify the wrong. You can forgive the person without excusing the act. Forgiveness brings a kind of peace that helps you go on with life.

What are the benefits of forgiving someone? Letting go of grudges and bitterness can make way for compassion, kindness and peace. Forgiveness can lead to:

  • Healthier relationships
  • Greater spiritual and psychological well-being
  • Less anxiety, stress and hostility
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Fewer symptoms of depression
  • Lower risk of alcohol and substance abuse

Why is it so easy to hold a grudge? When you’re hurt by someone you love and trust, you might become angry, sad or confused. If you dwell on hurtful events or situations, grudges filled with resentment, vengeance and hostility can take root. If you allow negative feelings to crowd out positive feelings, you might find yourself swallowed up by your own bitterness or sense of injustice.

What are the effects of holding a grudge? If you’re unforgiving, you might pay the price repeatedly by bringing anger and bitterness into every relationship and new experience. Your life might become so wrapped up in the wrong that you can’t enjoy the present. You might become depressed or anxious. You might feel that your life lacks meaning or purpose, or that you’re at odds with your spiritual beliefs. You might lose valuable and enriching connectedness with others.

How do I reach a state of forgiveness? Forgiveness is a commitment to a process of change. To begin, you might:

  • Consider the value of forgiveness and its importance in your life at a given time
  • Reflect on the facts of the situation, how you’ve reacted, and how this combination has affected your life, health and well-being
  • When you’re ready, actively choose to forgive the person who’s offended you
  • Move away from your role as victim and release the control and power the offending person and situation have had in your life

As you let go of grudges, you’ll no longer define your life by how you’ve been hurt. You might even find compassion and understanding.

What happens if I can’t forgive someone?

Forgiveness can be challenging, especially if the person who’s hurt you doesn’t admit wrong or doesn’t speak of his or her sorrow. If you find yourself stuck, consider the situation from the other person’s point of view. Ask yourself why he or she would behave in such a way. Perhaps you would have reacted similarly if you faced the same situation. In addition, consider broadening your view of the world. Expect occasional imperfections from the people in your life. You might want to reflect on times you’ve hurt others and on those who’ve forgiven you. It can also be helpful to write in a journal, pray or use guided meditation — or talk with a person you’ve found to be wise and compassionate, such as a spiritual leader, a mental health provider, or an impartial loved one or friend.

Does forgiveness guarantee reconciliation?

If the hurtful event involved someone whose relationship you otherwise value, forgiveness can lead to reconciliation. This isn’t always the case, however. Reconciliation might be impossible if the offender has died or is unwilling to communicate with you. In other cases, reconciliation might not be appropriate. Still, forgiveness is possible — even if reconciliation isn’t.

What if I have to interact with the person who hurt me but I don’t want to?

If you haven’t reached a state of forgiveness, being near the person who hurt you might be tense and stressful. To handle these situations, remember that you can choose to attend or avoid specific functions and gatherings. Respect yourself and do what seems best. If you choose to attend, don’t be surprised by a certain amount of awkwardness and perhaps even more intense feelings. Do your best to keep an open heart and mind. You might find that the experience helps you to move forward with forgiveness.

What if the person I’m forgiving doesn’t change?

Getting another person to change his or her actions, behavior or words isn’t the point of forgiveness. Think of forgiveness more about how it can change your life — by bringing you peace, happiness, and emotional and spiritual healing. Forgiveness can take away the power the other person continues to wield in your life.

What if I’m the one who needs forgiveness?

The first step is to honestly assess and acknowledge the wrongs you’ve done and how those wrongs have affected others. At the same time, avoid judging yourself too harshly. You’re human, and you’ll make mistakes. If you’re truly sorry for something you’ve said or done, consider admitting it to those you’ve harmed. Speak of your sincere sorrow or regret, and specifically ask for forgiveness — without making excuses. Remember, however, you can’t force someone to forgive you. Others need to move to forgiveness in their own time. Whatever the outcome, commit to treating others with compassion, empathy and respect.”

And, in her article titled, “Benefits of Forgiveness,” Elizabeth Scott, M.S. (www.stress.about.com) says,

“Betrayal, aggression, and just plain insensitivity: People can hurt us in a million ways, and forgiveness isn’t always easy. Whether you’ve been cut off in traffic, slighted by your mother-in-law, betrayed by a spouse, or badmouthed by a co-worker, most of us are faced with a variety of situations that we can choose to ruminate over or forgive. But forgiveness, like so many things in life, is easier said than done.

Forgiveness can be a challenge for several reasons. Sometimes forgiveness can be confused with condoning what someone has done to us: “That’s OK. Why not do it again?” Forgiveness can be difficult when the person who wronged us doesn’t seem to deserve our forgiveness — it’s hard to remember that forgiveness benefits the forgiver more than the one who is forgiven. Ultimately, forgiveness is especially challenging because it’s hard to let go of what’s happened. However, it’s important to let go and forgive.

Here are some reasons why:

  • Forgiveness is good for your heart — literally. One study from the Journal of Behavioral Medicine found forgiveness to be associated with lower heart rate and blood pressure as well as stress relief. This can bring long-term health benefits for your heart and overall health.
  • A later study found forgiveness to be positively associated with five measures of health: physical symptoms, medications used, sleep quality, fatigue, and somatic complaints. It seems that the reduction in negative affect (depressive symptoms), strengthened spirituality, conflict management and stress relief one finds through forgiveness all have a significant impact on overall health.
  • A third study, published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, found that forgiveness not only restores positive thoughts, feelings and behaviors toward the offending party (in other words, forgiveness restores the relationship to its previous positive state), but the benefits of forgiveness spill over to positive behaviors toward others outside of the relationship.
  • Forgiveness is associated with more volunteerism, donating to charity, and other altruistic behaviors. (And the converse is true of non-forgiveness.)

So, to sum it up, forgiveness is good for your body, your relationships, and your place in the world. That’s reason enough to convince virtually anyone to do the work of letting go of anger and working on forgiveness.”

Our Greatest Example

As Christians, our greatest example is Jesus himself. Jesus was so filled with the Spirit of God that He forgave the one who betrayed Him, and the one who denied Him. He forgave the Jews who turned against Him. And, He forgave the Romans who killed Him. In striving to know God, to be one with God, and to live in Spirit, we strive to live as Christ lived. We can only do that when we learn to love as He loved – which includes the act of forgiveness. Ephesians 4:31 & 32 reminds us of what that means: “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”

Closing Thoughts

Given the studies and the research, it is clear that forgiveness is not only a spiritual matter, it also has a direct impact into our health and well-being. If we don’t release the anger, hurt, bitterness, etc., be become prisoners to them. We’ve all heard “to err is human, to forgive divine.” We all make mistakes – that’s part of living our human experience. It is when we can transcend those times of being human, move ourselves into the Christ Consciousness, and embrace the Spirit of God within us that we can move ourselves into a closer, more intimate relationship with the Divine. Is it easy? No – we are still human, after all. Is it worth the effort? Absolutely! Learning to embrace the things of the Spirit, getting to know God, and welcoming the Spirit of Christ into our thoughts, our actions, and our lives is a wonderful and exciting journey. God is Spirit. Jesus said “I AM the Truth.” We are to worship in Spirit and in Truth. It is when we are truly able to love one another regardless of race, color, creed, religion, sexual orientation, status, looks, wealth, or wrong-doing that we will fulfill Jesus’ command to Love One Another. It is then that we will truly be in fellowship with God.

Scripture

  • John 4:24
  • Galatians 5:22 & 23
  • Ephesians 4:31 & 32

Join the Discussion

If you feel so moved, please share your thoughts on forgiveness. And, if this message resonates with you, please feel free to share it.

Common(?) Courtesy – Teaching

Continuing our exploration of what it means to live a life that is full of love, this week we’ll examine another attribute of love – courtesy.

Quote

Saint Basil is credit with saying:

“He who sows courtesy, reaps friendship
and he who sows kindness, gathers love.”

Thoughts

Since we’ve spoken before of kindness and, to some extent, love, let’s take a look at the first part of this quote – courtesy.

Courtesy Defined

Courtesy is defined as:

  • Polite behavior
  • A polite gesture or remark
  • Willingness or generosity in providing something needed
  • Given or done as a polite gesture

Further definitions include, “the act of showing regard for others (politeness)” and “a courteous, respectful, or courteous act.”

To me, these can all be summarized in one word – manners.

Do Manners Still Matter?

Yes, I know, talking about manners, i.e. courtesy, for some, will seem out-dated and old fashioned. I believe that this is exactly the issue. We, as a society, no longer place value on manners or common courtesy. In fact, most of us have heard the phrase, “if courtesy is so common, how come so few people seem to have it?”

I’m not talking about knowing which fork to use at a formal dinner party, or whether to serve from the right and clear from the left or vice verse. There are plenty of books on etiquette to answer these questions. I’m talking about showing respect, treating others with kindness. Unfortunately, because we no longer place value on manners, we no longer teach them to our children.

Think about it for a minute. When was the last time you received a Thank You card – or, for that matter, sent one? When was the last time you saw someone stand to offer his or her seat to a person more advanced in years? Have you tried to pull into or out of a drive-way when a young person is walking by? Do they pick up their pace? No. In fact, if anything, they seem to slow down. With our “me first” attitudes, drivers are more and more aggressive – speeding around you, making obscene gestures, racing to get into that parking place you had been patiently waiting for. We no longer say “please,” “thank you,” “yes ma’am,” or “no sir.” Instead, we hear, or utter, “uh-huh” and “un-uh.”

And, quite honestly, it’s our own fault. We no longer teach our children the value of respect or common courtesy. Many of us have, ourselves, moved quite far from the lessons taught to us. Just listen to conversations of teenagers today. The level of vulgarity would make a sailor sound like a choir boy. But, when you listen also to their parents – their language, and in many cases, the way they act, is no better. Showing courtesy is something that is, and can be, learned. Conversely, being discourteous, rude, and vulgar is also taught and learned.

Personal Perspectives

When I was a young teenager, an uncle of mine had a stereo system he knew I liked. He offered it to me on one condition – I was never to call him “uncle” again. I wanted that stereo. But, I politely declined. When asked why, I replied, “because I value sitting down.” I was raised to respect others, especially my elders, because it was right and proper. I would no more have called my uncle by his first name than I would have called my father by any “name” other than Dad or Pop. Calling my dad Ben would simply never have occurred to me.

To give an example of how our society has changed, and courtesy has been minimized – I was told by one young man that he does not say “sir,” or “ma’am”; nor does he go out of his way to show courtesy or respect to anyone until the person demonstrates they are deserving of it. The onus, according to this young man, is on the other person. Basically, instead of “innocent until proven guilty,” this young man preferred “guilty until proven innocent.”

While it is true that respect is something earned not forced, it’s also true that we should be demonstrating courtesy and respect at every opportunity – simply because it’s the right thing to do. In trying to live as Christ lived – loving others even as He loves us – we can turn to 1 Peter 2:17: “Honor all people.” Or, to put it another way, show respect to everyone. It doesn’t matter if they have done anything to “deserve” it. We should be courteous simply because it’s the right thing to do.

Another example of the “me first” pervasiveness is a situation that occurred while driving. I was on a street with very heavy stop and go traffic due to road work. The line of cars I was in would stop, creep forward, only to stop again.

As I was sitting in this line, I noticed that up ahead there was a car sitting in a driveway, waiting patiently to pull out into the flow of traffic. That driver sat there as, time and time again, traffic moved and stopped, with no one letting him in. As I approached the driveway, traffic again came to a stop. When it began to move again, I remained still and motioned for the driver to pull in. He waved in gesture of gratitude, pulled in front of me, and we moved on. Instantly, the blaring of horns came blasting from behind me. Evidently, I hadn’t moved quite fast enough for the drivers behind me and they starting honking horns and flashing obscene hand gestures. I remember thinking, “wow, haven’t you ever been stuck in a driveway and no one would let you in?” These drivers, honking and gesturing at me, are the very same drivers who would be fuming at the lack of courtesy when they are the ones that are stuck, waiting for some kind soul to let them in.

Even worse, in my opinion, is the fact that there were children in the car. So, by his actions, this father was teaching those very same behaviors and attitudes to his children. I wonder, will he be surprised when his children begin driving and they end up being just as aggressive and discourteous? Sad to say, I doubt he’ll even notice.

A final example shows just how far we’ve come, and how even the simplest of acts can be misconstrued. When I’m going through a door into a store, office, restaurant, etc., I try to look behind me to see if anyone might be close by. If so, I hold the door for them rather than have it slam in their face. One time, I noticed a lady behind me, so I held the door for her. She became agitated, and barked, “I can open a door for myself.” I wonder – have we really come so far that a simple gesture of courtesy would be viewed as demeaning – somehow implying she was “weaker” and in need of someone to open her door? Why can’t we simply accept the gesture for what it is, without layering on our own preconceived notions.

Does Courtesy Even Matter?

Given the prevailing attitudes and seeming lack of courtesy, one has to wonder if courtesy, or good manners, even still matter. I say, “yes!” – if for no other reason than the Golden Rule. Almost everyone can recite it from memory – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Most, however, don’t realize that this is actually a passage from the Gospels. Luke 6:31 says it this way: “And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.”

Showing courtesy is one way in which we can find opportunities to demonstrate small acts of kindness. Contrary to what the young man who told me he gives no one respect until they’ve earned it in his eyes may feel; these acts are the ways in which we demonstrate God working in our lives. It matters not how others will react. What matters is, as we discussed last week, the act of DOING.

One lesson I tried to teach my children is that we are not responsible for the actions or behaviors of others. We are, however, 100% responsible for how we choose to respond to them. The converse is also true. We are 100% responsible for our own actions. We are not, however, responsible for how others choose to react. For this reason, I will continue holding doors for those behind me, letting drivers pull into traffic, saying “yes sir” and “no ma’am.” And, even though I’m 50 years old, I will continue to use terms such as Aunt and Uncle when speaking about and to my parent’s brothers and sisters. Not because of some threat from my dad, but because it’s the right thing to do.

Closing Thoughts

It is true that, by and large, common courtesy may seem to be a thing of the past. But, it doesn’t have to be. If we would like to see a difference in the emerging generations, perhaps we need to do some self examination. Are our actions and our words those that we’d like to teach and to have emulated?

There’s a wonderful country song that illustrates the point. It’s called “Watching You” by Rodney Atkins. In the song, Dad is driving along with his young son in his booster seat. The boy is eating his Happy Meal. The light changes, Dad hits the breaks, the fries go flying and the soda ends up covering the boy’s lap. Dad mumbles under his breath, and the boy lets out a four letter word that begins with “S.” Dad says, “Son, now where’d you learn to talk like that?” and the boy responds, “I’ve been watching you, Dad, ain’t that cool? I’m your buckaroo, I wanna be like you.”

Truer words have never been spoken. We are the models our children will follow. Yes, even up until his death, my dad referred to his parent’s brothers and sisters as Aunt and Uncle. If we want our children to be kind, courteous, and respectful, we, ourselves, must first model that behavior. It is by demonstrating acts of kindness that we demonstrate love. Common courtesy, or manners, is one way in which we can find opportunities to be kind, compassionate, and loving. As Ephesians 4:32 reminds us, “…be kind to one another, tenderhearted (compassionate), forgiving one another…”

These acts don’t have to be grand gestures. I invite you to find opportunities – write those thank you cards, be polite, limit or eliminate the use of vulgarity, hold doors for folks, offer your seat to others, and build others up when you can. It really is that simple. All it means is stepping out of the “it’s all about me” and putting someone else and his or her needs above our own. Just as Philippians 2:4 reminds us, “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”

Scripture

  • 1 Peter 2:17
  • Luke 6:31
  • Ephesians 4:32
  • Philippians 2:4

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Love & Kindness – Teaching

Lately we’ve talked about who we are – children of God. We’ve also talked about the fact that it is through love that we fulfill God’s will and we glorify God, and thus, our purpose is to love. But, what does that look like? 1 Corinthians 13:4 offer insight – Love is patient, love is kind. So, one of the ways we can live a life of love is by being kind. Proverbs 19:22 tells us, “What is desired in a man is kindness…”

Quote

Mother Teresa had this to say about kindness:

“Three things in Human Life are important;
The first is to be kind.
The second is to be kind.
The third is to be kind.”

Thoughts

Kindness Defined

Wikipedia says, “kindness is the act or the state of being kind; being marked by good and charitable behavior, pleasant disposition, and concern for others.” Synonyms include courtesy and mercy.

Now, when it comes to acts of kindness, motive is important. Occasionally we might do something for someone else in the hopes of receiving something in return. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – as long as it’s legal and ethical. But, it can’t be a primary motivating factor. True kindness comes from a genuine desire to help others, removing the ego and the “what’s in it for me.”

Demonstrating Kindness

The parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37 teaches us that we demonstrate kindness through our actions. In the parable, a certain man (presumably a Hebrew) went from Jerusalem to Jericho. He was attacked by thieves, stripped, beaten, and left for dead. A priest (also a Hebrew) came along, saw the man, and passed by on the other side. Then a Levite (also Hebrew) came along and he, too, passed by on the other side. Finally, a man from Samaria (a Samaritan, the lowest class of people to the Hebrews) came along. He helped the man, bandaged him, took care of him, and even took him to an inn and paid the innkeeper to continue the man’s care. The Samaritan gave no thought to what he might get in return. He showed mercy and provided help simply because it was the right thing to do.

After speaking the parable, Jesus asked, “So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” The response was, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said, “Go and DO likewise.” Jesus’ statement is clear – we must do more than talk a good game. We must demonstrate our kindness, our courtesy, and our mercy by our actions – doing good works, getting involved in community projects, finding ways to help others.

For those who have time and energy, that might mean volunteering. For some, it might be something as simple as donating one can of food per week to a food bank. Proverbs 31 speaks of a “virtuous wife” who works diligently to attend to the needs of her family as well as others. Verse 20 says, “She extends her hand to the poor, yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy.” Helping others comes in different forms, and each of us can choose what it is we do – what’s important is that we DO.

A Kind Word

We’ve all heard, “actions speak louder than words.” While there’s truth to the statement, don’t forget that words are also important. Showing kindness and compassion can include saying the right thing at the right time. Offering words of comfort to someone who is in sorrow or pain, or words of encouragement to someone who is disheartened are also ways to be kind. Going back to the “virtuous wife” in Proverbs 31, verse 26 says, “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness.”

A Doormat

Should we always be looking for ways to be kind? Yes. Does living a life of kindness mean you have to become a doormat? No. Helping others doesn’t mean you have to let them take advantage of you. When necessary, you have the right to say “no.” Assisting others when it endangers your health, your safety, or your well-being isn’t healthy. Now, I’m not talking about a fireman who risks his life by running into a burning building to save someone. That is a brave, heroic, and selfless act. I’m talking about constantly providing assistance to someone who can, and should, be doing for themselves – they simply won’t. They have no desire to, and why should they? They find it’s much easier to be selfish and to take advantage of your kindness and generosity.

Though not actually a Bible verse, remember there is some truth to the statement, “God helps those who helps themselves.” In essence, 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12 says, ‘He who does not work shall not eat. Yet we hear that some of you are living in laziness, refusing to work, and wasting your time in gossiping.

In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ we appeal to such people–we command them–to quiet down, get to work, and earn their own living’.

We’ve all needed help at one time or another. We get to repay the kindness we’ve received by helping others. But, we don’t have to be a doormat when we’re being taken advantage of. In addition to loving others, we must also remember to love ourselves. Not in an egotistical, self-centered way; but in a healthy way. Ephesians 5:29 says, “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it…” And, in Matthew 22:39, Jesus reminds us: “…You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” We are commanded to love ourselves, and treat ourselves kindly, and then, in that same manner, love others and treat them kindly.

Closing Thoughts

Our purpose is to love. God is love. Love is kind. It follows, then, that in demonstrating kindness, courtesy, mercy, and compassion is one of the ways in which we live a life of purpose. And remember, in striving to live a life of kindness, don’t forget to be kind to yourself.

I invite you to be kind to yourselves, consciously look for ways in which you can unselfishly be kind to others, and continue the journey of fulfilling your purpose.

Scripture

  • 1 Corinthians 13:4
  • Proverbs 19:22
  • Luke 10:25:37
  • Proverbs 31
  • 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12
  • Ephesians 5:29
  • Matthew 22:39

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