As I sat in worship recently, I saw a little plant of goodness inside me. This plant is only a seedling, but it is tenacious. It is able to grow despite harsh conditions. But it shouldn’t have to struggle. I want to nourish it and water it and shine light on it. I want to help it grow strong and flourish.
For most of my life, I thought that kindness was the least important of all character traits. Being brave was important, and being noble. It was important to be right, to be first, to be best, to be a leader. Courage, intelligence, and tenacity were things that mattered. And then there was kindness. Kindness, in my mind, was what you did if you couldn’t do anything else.
I grew up terrified of all kinds of things, but especially other people. The world seemed full of murderers and kidnappers and rapists. It required constant vigilance. I always had a backup plan, always looked for an escape route, and always tried to have a weapon handy.
For me, the key to survival was to be the best, the fastest, the smartest. It wasn’t that I actually succeeded at being the best at everything – but trying and striving gave me the focus I needed to feel safe. If I had to choose between being right and doing right, I would choose being right.
Then God turned everything upside down.
Lately, in situations where I want to be first, or best, or most important, God keeps calling me to be kind. I keep hearing the words of William Penn, advising me to see what love can do.
At the grocery store, my instinct has always been to rush into the shortest line before anyone else can get there. These days, I might sometimes notice a person with only two items and let them go first. Or not. I’m not always getting it right. But the thoughts are there; thoughts that I would have dismissed before as weak or ridiculous or not in my best interest.
A little plant of goodness is growing inside me, a tender space. Meeting for Worship is a greenhouse for this plant, this tender space.
I’ve always thought of God as the booming voice, the lightning and thunder, the righteousness. But maybe God is the tender space; the still, small voice; the part of myself that I have tried to hide and deny and protect and scar over.
I’ve tried to toughen up my vulnerability – to be a warrior. But perhaps vulnerability is what God needs from me, how God wants to live in me.
I want to spend my life with the good rising and the evil receding. I want to become tender. I want to learn to be kind. ~~~
Mica Coffin is a spiritual director, retreat leader, writer, artist, and Reiki practitioner engaged in a ministry of healing and inspiritment. She is a member of West Hills Friends. This reflection grew from a chapter of her book, Light for the Journey.