My husband is in charge of all things social in our family. We have a tacit understanding that he goes out and makes friends, and once he is completely ingratiated with them and they begin to suspect that he doesn’t really have a wife after all, only then do I enter the scene, usually kicking and screaming.
Such was the situation last Friday night. I say he tricked me into it. He said early in the week, “Hey, do you want to go out to dinner with me on Friday night?” That always sounds good, so I said, sure! A day or so later he said, “What do you think if I ask the Baineys to join us?” Well, that pushes the envelope a little for me, but I like the Baineys, so I said okay. It turned out the Baineys already had plans to join two other couples, and wouldn’t we like to join all of them too? That’s where the kicking and screaming comes in – or more accurately, pouting and accusing, because after all, clearly I’d been tricked.
As it turns out, I had a wonderful time. I hate to admit it after how I carried on, but it’s true, these people really are very, very nice. In particular, one woman named Karel. She’s about a size 0, so I’m hard-pressed to think anything positive about her at all, but it cannot be denied. She is more than just cordial, she more than has good social skills, she more than knows how to make a newcomer feel welcome. She is truly, truly, a nice person. You sense it: she is kind.
Over the course of the next couple days as we reflected back over the evening we discussed Karel. My husband said, “Other than you, she is one of the only really kind women I’ve met.”
Whoa. Stop the tape and rewind. Do my ears deceive me? First, I was surprised that he even understood that many women, although cordial, are not necessarily kind. But I was more taken aback by the phrase, “Other than you.”
I did venture a tentative (and incredulous), “You think I’m kind?” He answered in the affirmative, and I decided not to mess with a good thing. It’s one of the most wonderful compliments anyone has ever paid me. I’m pretty sure it’s not completely deserved, but I really, really like the idea. I am inspired to live up to his perception, however faulty.
The truth is, the issue of kindness has been very much on my mind lately, even before this incident. (Adolescent girls…enough said.) From what I’ve seen, unkindness easily becomes a very bad habit, it’s catchy, and its destruction often goes way beyond the intended target. Sometimes the intended target of the unkindness never even knows he’s been shot, but what happens to all those who live daily in a mean-spirited atmosphere? Defenses go up, fear and insecurity set in, and they know it’s only a matter of time before they themselves are the injured party. They learn to bite first, before they are bitten.
When I am finally hoodwinked into being social with my husband’s newfound friends, it’s not uncommon for one of the men to pull me aside and expound on how much they like my husband. They go on and on about how much fun he is and how much life he brings to a party and how he makes everyone feel comfortable.
Well, fun, shmun. I don’t know much about that, but I do know that my husband does have a gift for making people feel valued for the best parts of them. And I tell them, he is the real McCoy. If he seems to like you (and he likes almost everyone), he really does. He doesn’t put on social graces and then roll his eyes as he turns away, or snigger to someone else privately about your quirks. A fact that can be quite annoying when I’m mad at someone and want to spout off a little, because he generally comes to their defense. How infuriating is that?
Last week in my neighborhood Bible study we were talking about Judas Iscariot’s betrayal of Jesus. The question was, of course, if we had ever been betrayed by a close friend. One woman very sagely pointed out that most of the betrayals in our circles have to do with gossip and backbiting. In the name of politeness we are ever so gracious in our interactions with others. We make every friendly overture, we convey good will and friendliness with every facial expression and gesture. But how often, as soon as we leave their presence, do we take aim and fire?
So lately, floating on the bubble of my husband’s charitable words and mindful of the example I’m setting for my children, I’ve been putting more effort into being kind. (Because I don’t think I’m nearly as kind as he thinks I am, and I’d better straighten up quick before he figures that out.) I’ve been trying to think the best of folks, appreciate their best qualities, have sympathy for their weaknesses, roll with their funny idiosyncrasies, just generally extend grace at every turn. And guess what – I’ve discovered that it requires only about 12 extra brain cells and 0.3 extra calories per gracious thought. Not much effort at all. And I think my skin is getting clearer to boot!
Now if I could only figure a way to avoid those pesky dinner engagements…