My husband pan-fried dumplings for lunch, which is the most delicious way to eat them. Tender chicken and vegetables inside, chewy noodle wrapper with just the right amount of caramelized crunch outside. Yum! While Chris attended to the dumplings sizzling in the iron skillet, I prepped peanut butter sandwiches and apple slices for the kids and some yogurt and granola for me — an eclectic lunch trying to use up what we had on hand. We all devoured the strange and simple meal, enjoying each other’s company as we passed dark dipping sauce and the final remnants of a bag of Chili Cheese Fritos.
Then Chris and I got into a fight.
He started wiping up the stove from all the splattered oil (the only downside of pan-frying) and wanted me to take over cleaning the stove so he could go finish the garage project he started before lunch. But I wanted him to finish cleaning the stove because I needed to clean up the rest of the kitchen. There was enough work in there for both of us, I not-so-gently pointed out. Back and forth we went. You clean the stove. No, you do it. (Please tell me I’m not the only one whose marital woes stem from mundane chores.)
I said, “You should just finish it yourself, otherwise you’re going to come back in and critique the job I did.” There was an edge to my voice. I was being critical out of fear or expectation that my husband would be critical. Umm . . . plank in your own eye, Becky. My comment did not sit well with Chris. We had some more words. I wanted to play it off as being sarcastic. I mean, I wasn’t outright nasty. But more often than not, sarcasm is just a socially accepted mask to cover unkindness.
And I had been unkind.
I wish I could have hit the slo-mo rewind button and watched my words retract back into my mouth like water into a bucket. But I couldn’t. My husband was left dripping in the deluge of my unkindness.
Deep in my heart, I desire to be kind to everyone, especially my husband. I’m sure you want to be kind to others too, with your loved ones at the top of the list. But sometimes there’s a pile — or a mile — of junk on top of those good intentions that keep us from acting kindly. Take a gander at this list of possible kindness blockers:
- unmet (or likely unspoken) expectations
Any of these resonate with you? It’s easy to see how our desire to be kind can get stuck in the muck. Now, with our boss or workout buddy or the produce guy stacking cantaloupes, it’s easier to temporarily shove the pile of unresolved issues over to the side and let kindness rise. But with our parent, sibling, child, spouse, or roommate? They get the realest real version of ourselves.
Now hear this: Kindness doesn’t mean you’re a doormat. Being kind doesn’t mean you don’t train your kids to be independent and responsible. Kindness doesn’t mean your spouse, roommate, or coworker shouldn’t share the workload. Kindness never equates to allowing someone to treat you poorly.
But kindness is taking your own preference and convenience off the pedestal. Kindness is dismantling your own criticism and cynicism in order to pray, live, and say, “How can I be the blessing in someone’s day? How can I love my neighbor who happens to share my bed or live down the hall?”
What if today you asked God to search your heart and reveal to you if there’s anything keeping you from loving the people closest to you? If you’re open to hearing it, God will be faithful to speak it.
Home is our learning lab for living our one life well. How you treat the people you live with — or those you are in a close relationship with — is either a glaring or gleaming indicator of the kind of mark you will make on the world. Mother Teresa is quoted as saying, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.”
Perhaps how we treat people at home is how we leave our most important mark.
We’re always in awe of God’s plans playing out in His amazing timing. When Becky Keife began to write the new (in)courage book, The Simple Difference: How Every Small Kindness Makes a Big Impact, we could never have known the timeliness of that message today. Whether it’s facing challenging relationships at home, scrolling through social media, or watching the news, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the currents of hate and blame, loneliness and hopelessness. With crisis or discord at every turn, we wonder how one person can really make a difference. The Simple Difference will help you see more of the people in front of you, more of God’s lavish love for you, and more of His power within you.
The Simple Difference is now available wherever books are sold! We’re so excited for this book to be in your hands!