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Compassionate Candor

7 Feb

Sometimes candor, the quality of being totally frank, is helpful. Sometimes, it hurts.

I’m not sure what to think about this exchange!

“Soon after our last child left home for college,” the woman said, “my husband was resting next to me on the couch with his head in my lap. I carefully removed his glasses. ‘You know, honey,’ I said sweetly, ‘Without your glasses you look like the same handsome young man I married.’

“And my husband replied with a grin, ‘Honey, without my glasses, you still look pretty good too!” *

When we use candor, we are being open and honest with a person. But too often, the temptation is to become harsh or insensitive.CompassionateCandor

Paul tells us to become more like Jesus our conversations.

While the context of Ephesians 4:15 is the need to speak truth in doctrinal matters—that we must speak God’s truth rather than worldly philosophies, and do so lovingly—many counselors use this verse to remind Christ-followers how to speak to each other if they are to “grow up into every way into him . . . into Christ.”

Certainly, even without this verse, we know our speech is to be truthful, because truthfulness is part of God’s character. He is a God of truth (Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 57:10). Jesus said, “I am . . . the truth” (John 14:6).

But Ephesians 4:15 says our speech must also be loving. And that’s not surprising, because God is love  (1 John 4:8).

Perhaps one of the biggest reasons we do not speak with compassionate candor is our problem with pride.

  • We think we know it all.
  • We think we know more than others.
  • We think it’s our responsibility to set them straight.

Oh, how we need humility before we speak. Why?

1. Humility recognizes we have our own issues, our own struggles. That’s why Jesus encouraged people to consider their own problems before confronting others with the truth they may need to hear (Matthew 7:1-5). We’re not to judge others; God is the judge of human hearts. When we are mindful of (and even acknowledge) our own weaknesses and limitations, our hearer will be more receptive. This kind of authenticity also brings honor to the Lord.

And authenticity is a key word here. Pride and defensiveness will become evident in body language or tone of voice, even if our words sound “humble.”

2. Humility before speaking will communicate a Christ-like attitude. We are not to think of ourselves too highly, but to speak from a desire to serve others (see Romans 12:3 and Philippians 2:1-5).

3. Humility will allow us to listen first, choose our words carefully and not jump to any conclusions (James 1:19). Honesty must be accompanied by thoughtfulness and sensitivity.

4. Humility will allow us to be gracious, charitable, compassionate with our words. (Consider Luke 6:36-38.) The intention will not be to embarrass, but to help. [In the case of an erring believer, to goal is to restore! There is a proper way to speak truth in love, in that case (Matthew 18:15-17a).]

Humility is actually just part of speaking truth in love. Mary Kassian, author of Conversation Peace, said, regarding the kind of speech we need to share: “… tenderheartedness is just part of the equation, but you also have to add honesty in there, authenticity . . . humility and faithfulness.” **

Compassionate Candor is a matter of packaging truth for others in a way that will help and serve them and glorify God.

We must birth the truth in humility and wrap it in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a love.

We practice this best in the home. How do we practice compassionate candor with a marriage partner? With our children?

Practicing Compassionate Candor:

1. Consider the most kind, diplomatic way to express a painful truth. Wrap it in love that the person will understand. Maybe you can even sandwich it between genuine praise and concern for the person’s perspective.

For example: “Sweetie, I appreciate your hard work in the yard this morning. Do you think you could put the tools away now? I know you don’t want all that stuff to get in the way or our neighbors seeing the pretty yard when they come home from work.”

2. But don’t think in terms of a formula: If I say this and this, he will do that and that. Just be genuine and speak the truth in love, but remember, your “packaging” of the truth may look different from situation to situation.

Kassian said, “People communicate in different ways, and so sometimes that’s just a matter of understanding , or sometimes understanding someone’s communication pattern. . . .” **

It often helps to ask questions for greater understanding before sharing your “truth” statement; but be careful to be wise and loving even in asking questions.

“You want to be very careful not to use loaded questions,” Kassian said, “or questions where you’re not asking a question but you’re passing judgement.” **

3. Don’t manipulate. Again, check your heart first. Are you humble? What’s your purpose?

4. Be alert to times your family members practice compassionate candor and praise it.

5. Be encouraging every day. Be sure you are practicing approval, genuine praise and gratitude so family members will be more open to the interaction of more difficult conversations.

Think about how you speak the truth in your home. Would a bit more humility encourage compassionate candor?

* Humor adapted from CybersaltDigest, 4-8-13

** From “Using Your Words to Heal,” https://www.reviveourhearts.com/radio/revive-our-hearts/using-your-words-heal/

Graphic adapted, Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

How to Live a ‘Golden Rule Lifestyle’

26 Aug

Three young boys keep my young friend Deedra Lindsey Sherm busy these days. I had to laugh at this exchange she shared on Facebook:

Son #1: “Mom! He hit me!”

Deedra to Son #2: “Son, did you hit your brother?”

Son #2: “Yes, but he hit me, so …uh …you know … the Golden Rule!”

LOL, right?

Obviously, Son #2 didn’t have a clue about the true meaning of the Golden Rule. The biblical maxim is, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matthew 7:12). In other words, we are to treat others as we want them to treat us. Son #2 would re-write that to read, “Do unto others BECAUSE they just did to you!”

The same Golden Rule concept is found in the Old Testament in Leviticus 19:18 ~ “…you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Other than the obvious fact that this will make our “neighbors” (or anyone we have contact with) enjoy greater blessings, it also does something for us. We feel better about how we relate to others; we feel happier and we know we are pleasing God. When we are generous in our interactions with people, God blesses us in unexpected ways (see Proverbs 11:25).

So what are some practical ways we can live out the royal rule in relationships ~ the Golden Rule? Here are eight simple ways:

(1) Think and reflect. Take time to consider how you’d want to be treated. Use your imagination. Create some scenarios and think, “How would I want someone to respond? What would I want someone to do or say?”

(2) Ask God for a sensitive heart. Try to understand, as best you can, what a person’s need is or why he or she behaves in a certain way. Walk a mile in a person’s moccasins (or Jimmy Choo heels) so you can empathize. Let a Golden Rule lifestyle begin with you! Pray for opportunities to bless others.

(3) Act with kindness and compassion (see Ephesians 4:32). Have you ever noticed that once you “get” the suffering or circumstances of others, you are drawn to help them or at least pray for them? Rather than practicing random acts of kindness, be proactive. Ask, “What can I do, if anything, to relieve this person’s pain or struggle?” When God speaks, follow through.

(4) Open your ears before you speak. It’s so easy to give advice before we have the whole story (Proverbs 18:13); and sometimes all a person needs is a caring person who will listen. Understanding comes through listening, not talking. Consider how you would want to be heard, and respect others enough to give them the same courtesy.

(5) Be a helper and healer. It’s so easy to get tunnel vision ~ to only see our own needs. Once our eyes are open to needs and struggles, it’s a sign of great personal strength to be helpful in practical ways, or even to find ways to bind up (bandage) a person’s heart. (I recognize that sometimes, only Jesus can help and heal; but maybe you can remind a person that a loving God has all the power and help they will ever need. You may need to introduce them to Him.)

(6) Be a true friend. Be careful and respect others’ boundaries, but ask God to help you reach out in friendship in a meaningful way. Open your heart and arms and welcome people into your life. Let them know you care and want to be with them.

(7) See the individual, not your differences. Think of the story of the Good Samaritan ~ the man who reached out to care for the desperate victim saw him as a man, not through the lens of prejudice. Think about any prejudices you might have that would prevent you from practicing The Golden Rule:  age differences? skin color or nationality? gender? appearances? Ask God to help you see people the way He sees them. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Everyone has needs. Be humble and Christ-like, looking out for the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-7).

(8) Sometimes, turn the other cheek (see Luke 6:27-31). Some people are just plain mean and uncaring. But that doesn’t mean we retaliate or “pay them back” for their bad treatment. The Golden Rule isn’t an excuse for retaliation when others act extreme; but rather, encouragement to treat others well, regardless of their behavior. We allow others to own their feelings and behaviors, and we rise above circumstances as we put on the character of Christ and respond as He would.

The simple truth is, a Golden Rule Lifestyle will bless us as we bless others. Live it out “as to the Lord” (Ephesians 6:7).

Does someone come to mind that needs to experience the Golden Rule, applied from your life to theirs? How will you respond?

– Dawn

Those Pesky Idiosyncracies

27 May

It’s been said that married men should forget their mistakes. There’s no sense in two people remembering the same thing.

It’s also been said that marriage is a relationship where one person is always right … and the other is the husband.

Those jokes are funny, but not too kind to the menfolk!

Unfortunately, marriage is a sea of challenges that requires graceful navigation!

I was recently encouraged by a book about this complicated relationship. Elaine W. Miller wrote We All Married Idiots, a book that examines three things we will never change about our marriages, and then she offers ten things we can all work on to improve the husband-wife relationship. (1)

In one chapter, Elaine talks about learning to live with each other’s idiosyncrasies.

“Since living with idiosyncrasies is a part of marriage,” she wrote, “You might as well treasure those peculiar habits. One day you might miss them. I know I did.”

Elaine’s husband Dan was a tapper. He tapped on things. “I think in his mind the whole world is his trumpet as his fingers play a perpetual tune,” she said. “He taps the table when he eats, the steering wheel when he drives, the newspaper when he reads, the pulpit when he preaches, and my shoulders when he puts his arms around me.”

The tapping got hard to take. “If I let it,” Elaine said, “his tapping gets on my nerves. Many times I have said in an irritated voice, ‘Would you please stop tapping!’

“However,” she added, “when he was hospitalized and I was uncertain if he would live through the night, those words weren’t on my lips. I stared at his silent fingers, held his motionless hands, and pleaded, ‘Please, God, let me feel his fingers tapping.’

“Funny how our perspective on idiosyncrasies changes under different circumstances,” she said. “Many will admit the very thing that bugs them is what first enticed them to their beloved, and what they will miss the most when their loved one is gone.”

I remember reading about a woman who hated her husband’s snoring. She complained and poked him through the night. But after the man died, she told a friend she’d “give anything to hear that man snore again!”

Those pesky idiosyncrasies are simply more proof that we are all unique, and the truth is, every marriage has them. It is our attitude that makes the difference. Elaine explains that love is kind (according to 1 Corinthians 13:4). And what does that look like? “Being kind to your mate means overlooking those oddities that sometimes drive you crazy. The next time your love does the idiotic, remember this ~ you married an idiot and so did your spouse.” (2)

Elaine points out that the words “idiosyncrasy” and “idiot” both come from the same Greek root word (idio) meaning “common man.” In other words, we all do things that are a bit eccentric or peculiar from time to time.

As I thought about this, I realized how many times simple kindness and grace ~ and especially loving words ~ have acted like soothing oil in my own marriage. (Sometimes I can’t believe that my husband has put up with me this long!)

Rather than focusing on each other’s quirks, we’ve chosen to concentrate on what is good, pure, lovely, etc. (see Philippians 4:8). Some of those pesky idiosyncrasies remain, but they aren’t “issues” anymore. We’ve learned to love and accept each other and try to see each other through the eyes of the Redeemer we both love.

When I stop to think that God created me with unique idiosyncrasies ~ and He loves me ~ it encourages me to share the same kind of love with others, especially my spouse.

How about you? When you think about your spouse (or if you’re not married, a boss or a parent or someone else you have a relationship with on a regular basis), is there something that the person does that really bugs you? Could love, acceptance, patience and mega doses of grace ease your frustration?

(1) Elaine W. Miller, We All Married Idiots (Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, 2012), p. 7.

(2) ibid, p. 7.

Elaine Miller is a member of the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA) and has authored two other books, Splashes of Serenity: Bathtime Reflections for Drained Moms and Splashes of Serenity: Bathtime Reflections for Drained Wives. http://www.splashesofserenity.com.

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