Love is kind
See what I did there? With the title?
Hey, it's hard to come up with catchy titles involving the word 'kind.' Let me know if you have a better idea (or a better pun).
So what does it mean to love other through kindness? Well in the past* this has meant me bending over backwards to 'love' others and, at the extreme end, endangering my own mental and emotional health because I'd decided to take everyone else's problems on my shoulders and am being crushed under the weight of a self-imposed obligation.
This not love. This is pride. This is my pride, cleverly hiding behind perfectionism which in turn is lurking behind a self-righteous mask of love. One day, after church, this really hit home. I had a standing obligation with a friend to give her a lift to church. That weekend I also contacted a different friend and invited her to church. She was happy to come (yay! Christian brownie points) but required a lift. Without hesitation I said 'Sure!' and merrily took on this obligation.
Now our car can only fit our family and one other. But I'd invited two friends. Do the math. Unfortunately I don't drive (yeah, it's pretty bad in a country that's not exactly pro public transport) so it would be up to my parents whether they were willing to drive uphill and downdale to get everyone to church. Understandably, they decided against such a plan. What ensued was my pride and perfectionism taking over, under that clever mask of love and kindness, to get both my friends to church.
Why didn't I just listen to dad when he said, "You can only have one." Oh no, that will not do at all! Cried she. I must have both my friends there because I've invited them both and I can't say no now and they need me and they need to be there and I have to love them and, and, and... You get the picture.
I did, however, manage to get both of them to church by arranging a separate lift for the other friend. But this experience had been so draining on me, because of the self-imposed obligation to be 'kind' and 'love' them, that I wasn't even there for them, mentally. I was so stressed and distracted I couldn't really focus on what either of them were saying or how they were really feeling. To top it off I also had to attend a meeting that week after the service, so I had a to rush out with my family and my friend to drop her home and then come back for the meeting. In the meantime my other friend had been taken home and I now had to try and concentrate on the youth leader's meeting.
So it wasn't a great afternoon. As I reflected on the day I felt convicted by God that this had been an issue of pride. God showed me that I had been more concerned about appearing like a good friend rather than actually being one and genuinely loving them. Now that's not to say I'm heartless and don't love my friends, because I truly do and I'm not beating myself up, but I was motivated by my pride, and not godly love i.e. love is kind.
As the author of this website explains, loving others by being kind doesn't mean giving people everything they want and bending over backwards to please everyone. So these days I don't impulsively say 'Sure!' to something before checking what else I have on that day. When the anxious perfectionist voices start ('You have to see them, they're your friend. Aren't you a good friend?') I call their bluff and let them sit in my head and grumble away. I don't have to listen to them, I don't answer to them. Instead I take my thoughts captive to Christ and look to the Lord for the reassurance that I am doing the right thing.
If you ever struggle with worries and thoughts that can become overpowering I recommend this blogpost as well by Eva Bridges (on my computer I have to scroll down for a bit before I actually see the post). I found it encouraging to read that other Christians struggle in this regard and how they can choose to listen to the lies or take the thoughts captive.
Read it here: http://126.96.36.199/~desertn0/take-every-thought-captive/
*She says while acknowledging that this issue is still somewhat part of the present.