Kind to All

For years I have made the following comment in conferences, “What is desirable in a man is . . .?” A wait to see if anybody wants to respond, but nobody ever does. After a pause I say, “What is desirable in a man is his kindness” (Prov.19:22). Then I would illustrate that truth by saying, “Okay ladies, here is your chance. If you had to choose in us men, strong masculinity, or kindness, what would you choose?” They all say in unison, “kindness.”

Kindness is the essential character pre-requisite for ministry. The reason is simple. One act of unkindness, and your ministry is over with that person. The inquirer will clam up and stop sharing. People don’t care how much we know, until they know how much we care. This is not only true for pastoral care, it holds for parenting as well. A mother was telling me about her children, and said, “I know they have problems, but they won’t share them with me. Why is that?” I said, “Do you really want to know?” She assured me that she did want to know, so I said, “They probably don’t feel like they can trust you.” She said indignantly, “Of course they can trust me, I’m their mother!”

So I said, “Suppose you 15 year old came home and said, My best friend is smoking pot. What would you say and do?” Even though she knew it was a test question, she still responded as many parents will with some sage advice about what she should do or not do, and that is the end of the conversation. There is a good chance that the one smoking pot is the child. With such limited information the mother didn’t know enough to offer any advice. Wouldn’t it be better to say something like this: Thank you for sharing that with me. Do you want to talk about it?

Those who are truly searching for some answers will drop a line to see how we respond. If we come across as arrogant, judgmental, or unkind in any way, they stop sharing. One lady poured out her life story after a church service, but there was no time to deal with anything. Monday morning the phone rang about 7:00 AM. She said, “I can’t believe I shared all those things with you yesterday. What do you think of me?” I said, “Well I love you for taking that risk to share with me. How else could I help you if I didn’t know that?” There was a pause and then she said, “Well I have a lot more to share with you then.”

Dr. Neil

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