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.