My father told me once, when I was about 13 or 14 years old, that people will misinterpret one’s politeness with being weak. He didn’t tell me not to be polite, but it was just one of those statements he would occasionally make that seemed to have come out of nowhere and had no particular destination – its purpose shrouded in mystery. It must have had a powerful effect on me because over 50 years later I still clearly remember his mini-lesson and think about it.
Through the years I have often thought about what he said that day. Yes, on many occasions I have found his statement to be quite true. In my own life, I ended up introducing a kind of bi-polar form of humanity. The result is that people end up saying things like, “He’s a very complicated man.” Indeed, most people would say that about my own father and in my case, they would say “the apple did not fall far from the tree.”
You can take it a step further with the idea of loving kindness. What does one do with this combination of words? There is a tendency, at least here in the USA, to view loving kindness as something to be avoided, kind of like wearing your pajamas to work. They might be comfortable, but it just isn’t acceptable adult behavior. Plus, loving kindness is seen as a fool’s errand. It is naivete.
But what does one do who suddenly has been on the receiving end of acts of loving kindness? Since the fire destroyed our town, home, our routines, including portions of our incomes, I have experienced many unsolicited acts of loving kindness, from friends, from friends and family I have not heard from in years, decades, and from complete strangers. I told a friend that I had become very cynical over the years and I had built a philosophy about life that was similar to a very sophisticated sandcastle on an empty ocean beach. Then suddenly, the waves of loving kindness started washing over my house of sand and eventually took it out to sea leaving behind a glistening beach with no footprints and no sandcastles of cynicism.
Naturally life goes on. We get back into our routines and our conversations and we sometimes begin rebuilding those sandcastles. It is easy to do. However, you realize you can’t do so and still honor the loving kindness you have experienced. Loving kindness is transformational. My dad was right. Some people, perhaps many people will consider it a sign of weakness, an opportunity to exploit. He made an If, Then statement but he left it up to me to determine if this was just some form of artificial intelligence. Was there deeper knowledge, spiritual knowledge available in this vulnerablity – similar to the lessons of the Sermon on the Mount? Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. I think so. I know I ‘feel’ so.