Proverbs 18:1-2, CEB
1Unfriendly people look out for themselves;
they bicker with sensible people.
2 Fools find no pleasure in understanding,
but only in expressing their opinion.
(Editor’s note: Scott [me] made a mistake when he wrote this. He thought we were still on step 9. Oh well.)
One of the things that is so interesting to me is how often people say things when they obviously haven’t considered how their tone might impact the way another person receives their thoughts. For instance, people are constantly critiquing the things mom and I write and say. And to be honest, many times they’re right. We’re never going to get things perfectly quite right. Sometimes these critiques are offered in love and are quite constructive, and very much appreciated, but then other times it goes something like, “I can’t believe you write like that,” or, “Why did you say ____ instead of _____?” There’s a big difference between saying something like, “Hey, I wonder if you’ve thought about this topic from this perspective,” versus, “How could you be so dumb?” I believe that difference can be summed up simply as “kindness”.
I have had this experience a few times recently and it’s really caused me to think a lot about the nature of kindness. (Also, just FYI, by and large people are very gracious and appreciative of our work, the situation I’m talking about is quite rare, and in no way causes me to lose sleep at night). But I realize, in reflecting on these kinds of moments, how I do the very same thing to others. In fact, I do this to my own parents a lot. I think I’m being frank but I’m actually being rude when I say to dad, “Why would you handle that situation that way? That makes no sense.” Or when I say to mom, “Probably don’t use that phrasing.” Or whatever. I tell people what to do all the time and it’s actually quite embarrassing to think about. The thing is, behaving in this way is just not that kind. I can recognize that because I know how I feel when other people speak to me this way.
One of the things I think we should think about when it comes to step 9 is simply kindness. The last phrase of the step is important, it reminds us not to make an amends when we might cause harm. Now, this has to be discerned. Sometimes an amends might be necessary even in a place where it will cause harm. Every situation is different. But perhaps think about whether or not making a particular amends to a particular person is actually a kind thing to do. Jamey has spoken up on Saturday nights a few times about the importance of a “lifestyle amends”, which basically means you don’t make a verbal amends to a person but you live differently so as to avoid hurting anyone else in the same way. That seems to me to be very kind, and a good thing to keep in mind when dealing with step 9.