One way to measure one's lack of progress in Christian and human maturity is to keep a blog. Blogs allow one to look back at the past and see that not much has changed. Here is a post of mine from Holy Week, two years ago. I could have written the same thing about this Lent. The same forgetfulness about something I should be seeking all the time. Still, there is sorrow, and the desire to remember, not just during Lent, but all the time. And so I make this sorrow and desire my prayer to Jesus. Here is the text:
So, how was my Lent? Kinda shabby as usual.
I prayed more. I ate less. I gave up a couple of things I like. Then what was that other resolution? To make an effort to be kind to the members of my family. Hmm. I sort of forgot about that one. Not that I was mean to my family. Okay, I barked a few times at whining children. Mostly I was nice, though. I'm a nice guy.
But that wasn't the point of the resolution. Be Kind. It's a very concrete resolution. It means more attention, more readiness to do good to them, more cheerfulness in the little stuff. "Make an effort" doesn't necessarily require success, but it does require...well...to try, sometimes.
I don't think I tried much at all. I think I pretty much forgot all about it.
Kindness is something different from just "being nice." One can build a wall between one's self and another person by being nice. Although it doesn't have to, "being nice" can degenerate into a way of pretending to be involved in another person's life. One can use "niceness" as a way of touching another person superficially so as to distract one's self and the other from the need for a deeper engagement.
Kindness implies involvement with another person. Kindness is a gift of one's self, in a gentle and simple way, which seeks to affirm the goodness of the other person and make him or her aware of that goodness. Kindness is companionship with the other person in simple words and gestures. Often, kindness is refraining from the assumed familiarity that tends to absorb the other person into the environment of "things" that need to be manipulated for one's own purposes. It means refraining from being sarcastic, curt, bossy, or dismissive.
In families, it's easy to forget courtesy. It's easy to just push one another around. It's easy to forget that one's spouse and children are something more than mobile furniture in the house. It's especially easy for the husband and father to fall into this rut.
Intent on my own (important) purposes, I blow through the house, into the kitchen where I practically run over my wife. "Excuse me," I say (nicely), but at that moment she is just an object in my way. Then there are so many impatient utterances: "I'm in the bathroom!" - "Put that thing away!" - "Get out of there!" - "Clean up this mess!" I'm not the only one who speaks this way. We all do it to each other.
Then there are the countless opportunities to show attention and concern that just pass by, because I am too busy, too self-absorbed, or just don't feel like bothering. Love is diminished.
Okay, I don't want to beat this to death. After all, we are a normal family. We love each other very much, and we are often kind to one another. But, of course, we need more kindness. We need more generosity of spirit toward one another, more affirmation, more gentleness, more attention. Lent is a time to remember this need. It was a simple resolution.
But, for the most part, I forgot.
Jesus was kind to those who crucified Him. He prayed that they might be forgiven. "Love is patient, love is kind...." Simple, authentic kindness. It seems like a little virtue, but in the end it is a form of mercy.
I have a few days left. As we commemorate the gift of Christ's love for the whole world, and as we strive to love Him and to imitate Him, and to receive His mercy, I pray for the grace to remember, even once, to make an effort to be kind to the people in my life that I love most and so easily take for granted.