Alphabet Of Manly Virtues: “K” Is For “Kind”

11 Jun

(“The Alphabet of Manly Virtues” is a 26 post series examining various character traits of godly men. Check back every Tuesday and Thursday for new posts! To view other entries in the series, click here.)

 

kInitially, I volunteered to write about kindness because it felt like a strength of mine.  I thought “I’m a nice guy.  I try to be kind to pretty much everyone I meet.” But as I began to write this post, I remembered that in the past my attempts to be kind have came across as just the opposite.  Let me explain.

I’ll spare you the detailed family history, but in my family I was the “good son”.  I took on the role of the kid that made his parents proud.  In academics, sports, and relationships (except for a girlfriend or two), I learned that being nice to others generally lead them to offer what I was looking for – validation.  This give-to-get dynamic felt like it was working for me, until I got married.

With my wife I would try to help out with any number of household activities and generally she would show appreciation for my efforts.  However, there were times when my wife didn’t want my help.  I/my ego would push back, saying things like “You don’t have to do that by yourself” or “I don’t know why you won’t let me help you”.  This lead to some completely ridiculous arguments as I tried to get my wife to see how SHE was being stubborn and inhibiting me from doing something kind for her.

You see, I was still functioning from the perspective that the best way I could show kindness and love to my wife was to do something for her.  As guys, we excel in doing to show love.  But as human beings we don’t always need someone to do something for us.  Often, we simply need someone to be with us.

This leads me to my point – kindness is not always an ACTION we give, much of the time it is a PRESENCE we offer. 

We are present with others when we bring all of ourselves; our body, mind, soul, and spirit, into a moment with another.  Presence requires more being and less doing.  It is a perspective that allows us to see others and offer ourselves to listen, understand, and empathize without an agenda.  Being present means we engage fully with deep emotions or difficult conflict, while refusing to react when our buttons get pushed.  A present man offers himself in whatever way others need him instead of assuming he knows what they need.  In this way, his kindness becomes a blessing instead of a burden.

My early supervision as a Christian counselor taught me that creating a safe space for a client to process whatever he/she brought into the therapy room was the best service I could give.  Basically, I learned that I was not the Holy Spirit and God was fully capable of caring for His children. I believe this idea is true for all of us.

It is a beautiful kindness to be with someone and offer only what they need, NOT what I would want if I were them.  Being present like this takes much self-awareness, patience, trust, and faith.

Sometimes we Christians have the hardest time with this.  In our attempts to live a God-honoring life, we look for opportunities to help those around us.  We reference scripture that talks of giving, service, sacrifice, and generosity.  These are all wonderful characteristics.  However, if our actions aren’t driven by really seeing where someone is and hearing what they really need, then our efforts can come across as self-serving, moralistic, judgmental, and mean.

I have learned this lesson most beautifully as a regular part of a community of men.  This group of men, through weekend retreats and weekly meetings, has shown me that I can share the parts of myself that I feel the most guilt, regret, and shame about.  In these meetings they offer the opposite of the unsolicited advice-giving that has marked so many of my past experiences of community.  As I venture to share the ugliest parts of myself, they are kind enough to just listen and work to understand what it is like for me.  After much understanding, they ask what I need from them and are available to me.  In this way, they offer me the best kindness; one that fits me perfectly.  And they become God with skin on for me.

So, I wonder….

As men, how can we stretch our abilities to offer kindness to all we encounter?  I would love to hear your comments.

 

-Jason Otwell

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Jason Otwell is a counselor, teacher, speaker, and sometimes a writer.  His passion is to help people achieve a richer experience of God, themselves, and others.  Jason lives in Atlanta, Georgia with his wife and 2 children.  You can connect with Jason on Twitter and his counseling center’s blog.

8 Responses to “Alphabet Of Manly Virtues: “K” Is For “Kind””

  1. sixsteps268 June 11, 2013 at 09:37 #

    Jason,

    So good to read your words here! I love your voice and know the place from which it comes from! I’m grateful today, for being on a similar journey through the years, and for seeing the fruit of that journey!

    • jasonotwell June 11, 2013 at 20:11 #

      Josh,
      Thank you for the encouragement, and for being a part of my journey!

  2. Grady Paxton III June 11, 2013 at 18:52 #

    That’s awesome Jason. Definitely a different perspective in how to look at it. Having the mindset of “love one another” tied to doing, can put blinders on to what that person may need, as you said. Good stuff.

    • jasonotwell June 11, 2013 at 20:18 #

      Grady,
      So great to “see” you here and thanks for your thoughts. While I sure want my actions to be loving, I also want to be loving as a person. At times this requires no action. Losing either side of this gets me into trouble.

  3. For the Love of God June 11, 2013 at 22:00 #

    I can echo your sentiments here, unfortunatley many men do not have that sounding board immeadeatley available to them, as one who has been there I cant stress how important that is.

    Thanks for being transparent!

    • jasonotwell June 13, 2013 at 11:02 #

      FTLOG – You’re so right. Community doesn’t come easy, but it’s so vital. Thanks for your kind words.

  4. Adam Pomeranz June 12, 2013 at 00:51 #

    Beautifully written, appropriately, by one of the kindest people I know. All men could learn and find themselves challenged from your piece. Great job, Jason; you have a gift. I’m proud to know you.

    • jasonotwell June 13, 2013 at 11:03 #

      ADAM!
      I’m moved by your feedback. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Great to get this from a really wonderful man.

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