My husband pan-fried dumplings for lunch, which is the most delicious way to eat them. Tender chicken and vegetables inside, chewy noodle wrapper with just the right amount of caramelized crunch outside. Yum! While Chris attended to the dumplings sizzling in the iron skillet, I prepped peanut butter sandwiches and apple slices for the kids and some yogurt and granola for me — an eclectic lunch trying to use up what we had on hand. We all devoured the strange and simple meal, enjoying each other’s company as we passed dark dipping sauce and the final remnants of a bag of Chili Cheese Fritos.
Then Chris and I got into a fight.
He started wiping up the stove from all the splattered oil (the only downside of pan-frying) and wanted me to take over cleaning the stove so he could go finish the garage project he started before lunch. But I wanted him to finish cleaning the stove because I needed to clean up the rest of the kitchen. There was enough work in there for both of us, I not-so-gently pointed out. Back and forth we went. You clean the stove. No, you do it. (Please tell me I’m not the only one whose marital woes stem from mundane chores.)
I said, “You should just finish it yourself, otherwise you’re going to come back in and critique the job I did.” There was an edge to my voice. I was being critical out of fear or expectation that my husband would be critical. Umm . . . plank in your own eye, Becky. My comment did not sit well with Chris. We had some more words. I wanted to play it off as being sarcastic. I mean, I wasn’t outright nasty. But more often than not, sarcasm is just a socially accepted mask to cover unkindness.
And I had been unkind.
I wish I could have hit the slo-mo rewind button and watched my words retract back into my mouth like water into a bucket. But I couldn’t. My husband was left dripping in the deluge of my unkindness.
Deep in my heart, I desire to be kind to everyone, especially my husband. I’m sure you want to be kind to others too, with your loved ones at the top of the list. But sometimes there’s a pile — or a mile — of junk on top of those good intentions that keep us from acting kindly. Take a gander at this list of possible kindness blockers:
- unmet (or likely unspoken) expectations
Any of these resonate with you? It’s easy to see how our desire to be kind can get stuck in the muck. Now, with our boss or workout buddy or the produce guy stacking cantaloupes, it’s easier to temporarily shove the pile of unresolved issues over to the side and let kindness rise. But with our parent, sibling, child, spouse, or roommate? They get the realest real version of ourselves.
Now hear this: Kindness doesn’t mean you’re a doormat. Being kind doesn’t mean you don’t train your kids to be independent and responsible. Kindness doesn’t mean your spouse, roommate, or coworker shouldn’t share the workload. Kindness never equates to allowing someone to treat you poorly.
But kindness is taking your own preference and convenience off the pedestal. Kindness is dismantling your own criticism and cynicism in order to pray, live, and say, “How can I be the blessing in someone’s day? How can I love my neighbor who happens to share my bed or live down the hall?”
What if today you asked God to search your heart and reveal to you if there’s anything keeping you from loving the people closest to you? If you’re open to hearing it, God will be faithful to speak it.
Home is our learning lab for living our one life well. How you treat the people you live with — or those you are in a close relationship with — is either a glaring or gleaming indicator of the kind of mark you will make on the world. Mother Teresa is quoted as saying, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.”
Perhaps how we treat people at home is how we leave our most important mark.
We’re always in awe of God’s plans playing out in His amazing timing. When Becky Keife began to write the new (in)courage book, The Simple Difference: How Every Small Kindness Makes a Big Impact, we could never have known the timeliness of that message today. Whether it’s facing challenging relationships at home, scrolling through social media, or watching the news, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the currents of hate and blame, loneliness and hopelessness. With crisis or discord at every turn, we wonder how one person can really make a difference. The Simple Difference will help you see more of the people in front of you, more of God’s lavish love for you, and more of His power within you.
The Simple Difference is now available wherever books are sold! We’re so excited for this book to be in your hands!
So true. Think I need to practice more kindness in this house today. Thanks for the reminder, Becky.
Becky Keife says
I’m cheering you on, Gail! It’s a day-by-day, moment-by-moment decision for me too. Jesus, help us!
Melanie Saunders says
Thank you, Becky, for your beautiful reminder that the kindness we share with those who get the “realest real version of ourselves” matters. As someone whose health creates limitations, it is the gentle reminder my heart needed – there is no such thing as small kindness. (Oh, for a “slow-mo rewind button” that could retract those unwanted moments when unkindness has flowed).
Congratulations on your upcoming book launch. The Simple Difference sounds like just the message our world needs today. God bless you!
Becky Keife says
Thanks so much, Melanie, for letting me know this resonates!
I couldn’t help but be reminded of a time shortly before my husband passed away that I told him, “you know I pretty much run this house!” Ouch how many times have I wanted to do that slo mo thing you were talking about. I still wish I could take it back and he’s been gone 9 1/2 years now. Thanks for the ever so needed reminder.
Becky Keife says
Our words are so powerful … for both good and harm. Thanks for sharing that memory with us. I’m so sorry you lost your husband. It also encourages me to be grateful for and make the most of each precious day.
Thank you for being transparent. Sometimes it’s a challenge to feel like we as women are always expected to carry the kindness gift, go above and beyond, etc. If we think about all the examples that the Father has given us regarding HIS love for us, we will continue to strive to be more like Him. I’m reminded of an old song I heard growing up. To be like Jesus, to be like him, so meek and lowly, so humble and holy, oh I want to be like him.Lord, we need your help!!!!! Please help us!!!!
Becky Keife says
What beautiful lyrics, Denise. Amen!
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Becky thank you for being so honest. That you and your Husband sometimes don’t agree. You wanted him to clean up the stove. That you both were to blame that was dirty. I know at times like this you can have words with your Husband. Because you are annoyed that he probably wanted to his own thing before lunch. Leave you to clean the stove. Well in times like this we have to remember to watch we do not say word that hurt. I been in the suitation were I been annoyed with my Husband over something that not worth getting annoyed over. Especially when he has and all he is doing is trying to help me. Because he loves me. Like when he reaches over me. Like for example if I making lunch near the kettle. My Husband has in the passed stretched over me to put on the kettle to make tea then stretch over me to get the tea bags. I have had to try and stop me being annoyed at my Husband doing this. I know he is only trying to help me. So I can have more time to rest. In the past I seen me gritting my teeth and saying back to him in not a cross voice. But annoyed one. Buzzy of stop stretching over me. Why can’t you wait until I have finished making lunch. Then you can put on the kettle to make tea. Not stretch over me. Go away. Then I get from my Husband I only trying to help you. I say no your not. Go away. I call you when lunch ready. So I do. God has shown me. The way I handle that suitation was wrong. But my Husband should have waited not stretched over me to put on the kettle then get tea bags to make tea for lunch. God showed me that too. Then I have got to say sorry to my Husband for being annoyed with him. That he was only trying to help me. I then have to say nicely in a nice voice and not grit my teeth. Say next time please can you wait until I am finished. Then it is not me being unkind to my Husband. Who was only trying to be kind and help me. Because my Husband has said. I want you not to be doing everything yourself. I can help you. God has shown me in times like this. To remember I have such a good Husband. Who wants to help me. So as I not doing everything on my own. When there is many a Husband who wouldn’t even think of helping his wife. God has said to me. Dawn try and show a little more kindness not girt your Husband for wanting to help you. I say to myself then God is right to tell me that to do that. Show kindness. Thank you Becky for what you shared. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little xx
Becky Keife says
Yes, Dawn! Keeping the right perspective and choosing gratitude over irritation is so key in choosing to put on a posture of kindness!
Nancy Ruegg says
“Home is our learning lab for living our one life well.” What an insightful statement! Too many couples get married thinking home will be the place where they’ll live happily ever after without even trying. But home isn’t just a place for living well; it’s a place for loving well. Wonderful post, Becky!
Becky Keife says
Thank you for your encouraging words, Nancy! It’s certainly a message God is still training my heart to live.
Beth Williams says
My biggest problem is tired/worn out from work. That’s when I “lash out” & let my poor hubby “have it”. I am quick to ask forgiveness & try to show more kindness to him. Most days I pray & ask God to cleanse my heart & remove all sins, unforgiveness & hurt. Now my prayers will be how can I show kindness to others today. Do they need a smile, simple thank you, or hug?
This world could use a huge dose of kindness. That starts, like most things, at home. Practice being kind to those you love & it will spill over into the world.
Thanks for the reminder! It starts at home and spreads from there. I pray that the fruits of the spirit abide, dwell, and continue to have increase in my home and therefore spread out into the community. Amen!
Becky Keife says
Amen! Praying that with you, Olivia.