Monday, February 23, 2015

Be Kind For Real

Alright, now that we've laid some groundwork in this little section of cyberspace, let's get into what I'm currently reading.    

Vanity Fair, y'all.  It's the most satirical thing I've ever read.  Today, I want to discuss the following quote:
"Praise everybody, I say to such: never be squeamish, but speak out your compliment both pointblank in a man's face, and behind his back, when you know there is a reasonable chance of his hearing it again. Never lose a chance of saying a kind word. As Collingwood never saw a vacant place in his estate but he took an acorn out of his pocket and popped it in; so deal with your compliments through life. An acorn costs nothing; but it may sprout into a prodigious bit of timber."
This particular quote comes out of chapter 19 ("Miss Crawley at Nurse"), and, in my copy of Vanity Fair, is on page 180.

Upon a cursory reading, one might think, "That's right.  We should never miss an opportunity to be kind.  That's good."  But let's dig in a little deeper, shall we?  

"Never lose a chance of saying a kind word." If we rip this out of its context, I would agree with it 100%.  I'd needlepoint it on a pillow and pin it on pinterest (if I had an account...or knew how to needlepoint stuff). But let's look at these two phrases: "...when you know there is a reasonable chance of his hearing it again..." and "...it may sprout into a prodigious bit of timber." The author's implication then is to never miss an opportunity to be kind if in doing so, we gain something.  

Is this true kindness? While gaining something, whether a friendship or a favor, may be a natural byproduct of authentic kindness, being kind only to benefit from the act is not real kindness.  

Paul said, "Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you." (Ephesians 4:32 NASB) Jesus Himself said, "But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you." (Luke 6:27-28 NASB)  In fact, He goes on to say, "If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same." (Luke 6:33) 

If I really want to be kind the way Jesus said to, I will be kind unconditionally.  Never mind the "prodigious bit of timber" I may or may not get in the process.  


6 comments:

  1. Beautifully said! You have hit the nail on the head.

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    1. Thanks, Mom. And that rhymed wonderfully. ;)

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  2. While I completely agree with you that we should be kind regardless of reward or recognition, I like the quote, because many times, people are only kind to someone's face and not behind their backs. It was a challenge to me to be less hypocritical and give compliments about people all the time. After all, a compliment costs nothing (like an acorn), but has the potential to grow into something larger than we ever imagined.

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    1. That's a great point. I completely agree as long as we are being genuine.

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  3. Kristi LavioletteMarch 2, 2015 at 2:45 PM

    Hannah, on the subject of satire, I've never read Vanity Fair, but is the statement meant to be "tongue in cheek"? My AP Literature class studied "The Importance of Being Earnest" this year, and there were so many statements like this. They sounded good on the surface, but were actually meant as a double-meaning social satire. Just wondering if this was the case with this quote?

    Example: "The amount of women in London who flirt with their own husbands is perfectly scandalous. It looks so bad. It is simply washing one's clean linen in public."

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    1. Yes, that is definitely the case with this quote. In this particular situation in the novel, all of Miss Crawley's relatives want her fortune when she dies, but none of them really care anything about her. If she were penniless, no one in her family would acknowledge her with any shred of kindness. And throughout the entire book, Thackeray consistently uses humor, irony, exaggeration, and ridicule to expose people's stupidity and vices. I really do not recall ever reading anything more satirical than Vanity Fair.

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