Lisa Barry: I wonder how many of you listening to me have had a pity party this week. I had one. They are so easy! I?m the only one who attends this party, and my mind is capable of conjuring up memory after memory of wrongs done to me. The problem I?ve found is that the pity party rarely stays contained. It spreads like wildfire to my actions, my words and my attitudes long after the party is over.
Today on Gateway to Joy, Elisabeth Elliot and her daughter Valerie Shepard talk about the remedy to such a problem on this Monday edition of Gateway to Joy.
Elisabeth Elliot: "You are loved with an everlasting love." That?s what the Bible says. "And underneath are the everlasting arms." This is your friend Elisabeth Elliot, delighted today to have in the studio my daughter, Valerie Shepard. We are in South Carolina now, where Valerie and her family live.
And I want to say welcome to you, Val. What would you like to talk about?
Valerie Shepard: Thank you, Mama. I think we should talk about kindness.
Elisabeth Elliot: Kindness.
Valerie Shepard: One of the fruits of the Spirit.
Elisabeth Elliot: Okay. You tell me.
Valerie Shepard: Well, I?ve been concerned so many times in grocery stores when I see how mothers treat their children. I would love to be able to go up to them right then and there and say, "You don?t need to speak to your child in that tone of voice," but I haven?t actually had the courage to do that more than once. I have done it once. The woman was very indignant that I spoke to her about kindness.
But I?d love to read something from JOY AND STRENGTH, the devotional that you and I love so much by Mary Wilder Tileston. This is from February 11. "Be ye kind one to another."
And this quote is from William Bernard Ullathorne. "The remedy for sadness is prayer. But as sadness broods in selfishness and is inclined to rest rather in our own unhappy thoughts than on God, the soul turns to prayer with reluctance. Hence, the saddened one must first turn to God by vocal prayer, persevering in which that reluctance will be overcome. As the sadness subsides, the spirit will enter anew into the heart of prayer.
The second remedy against sadness is to break out of it by some external act of kindness or generosity. For the malady consists in a morbid concentration upon oneself and a brooding within oneself that repels sympathy and kindness as being adverse to this melancholy mood?a mood that can only be cherished in isolation of spirit. But let the will make a little effort to be kind and considerate towards another, and it is amazing how soon that malignant charm is broken that held the soul spellbound to her saddened thoughts and imaginary grievances. A smile, a kind look, a few gentle words, a considerate action, though begun with effort will suffice to open the soul and set the spirit free from its delusion."
Then Samuel Johnson said, "To cultivate kindness is a great part of the business of life." I love that. I know that the fruit of the Spirit?being kindness?has been just lately something I?ve wanted to focus on more and ask the Lord to give me more kindness in my responses to my husband or to my children. It?s kind of easy to be kind to people that see you only at church or only in other places, but in your home is the test. Right?
Elisabeth Elliot: And what if you don?t feel at all kind toward your children or your husband?
Valerie Shepard: We have to go to Christ. We can?t focus on how we feel, but we must focus on what we?re supposed to do by the help and the strength of Christ.
Elisabeth Elliot: Love is a choice, isn?t it? Kindness is certainly one of the aspects of love. And if we?re supposed to love everybody and be kind to those who are unkind to us, perhaps, this does take a deliberate sort of grabbing yourself by the reins and saying, "You must do this, no matter how you feel about it."
There is a nonsensical notion abroad?I hear about it often?where people would say, "But that?s hypocritical. I don?t really feel kind toward that person. I don?t really feel like loving my husband at times. Why should I love him when he is being nasty to me? Isn?t it hypocritical to just put on some attitude of kindness?" What would your answer be to that, Val?
Valerie Shepard: Well, the Bible does tell us to put on the Spirit of Christ. It tells us to put off the old ways of anger and malice and unkindness. So it?s a command. The only way we can put it on is to go running to Christ and say, "Lord, I need Your kindness in this unkind thing that someone did to me." I know it works, because I know that I have chosen at times to say, "I?m going to ignore the unkindness and be focusing on what Christ wants me to do."
Elisabeth Elliot: It says in Proverbs, "A soft answer turneth away wrath." I think I learned that from my sixth grade public school teacher. I never knew whether she was a true Christian, but she certainly did quote from Proverbs and she would read the Psalms, which was required in those days that there be Bible reading each day in the public schools. But I know how prone I am to give anything but a soft answer. I?m likely to have a very sharp tongue, very critical. I?m confessing my natural bents now, because I trust that the Lord has done some work in my life along those lines. And you know, I found it very easy to be kind to jungle Indians.
Valerie Shepard: Were they always kind to you?
Elisabeth Elliot: I would say that almost all the time they were kind to me. They looked up to me. They called me "senora." To them, I was what the white folks in Ecuador would call a "patron"?someone who owns property and owns people. It was very difficult for me to try to get across to these Indians, "I don?t own any property. I certainly don?t own you. I?m just here to live among you and to be one of you and to point you to Christ, if I can."
But I?m just interjecting that little bit there, because I realize how selective I can be in dishing out unkindness or kindness. Of course there were times when I was irritated, because I thought the Indians were demanding things in an unreasonable way. But generally speaking, I found it very easy to love them. They were very simple, happy, kind, outgoing people.
When I?m with my peers, I?m not necessarily kind at all. I do get some letters from some of my listeners from time to time about criticizing the way I have put something across on my radio program.
Valerie Shepard: I do remember the Auca Indians being especially kind to us. They always brought us food, didn?t they? It seemed like if they had any extra at all, they would come and offer it to us.
Elisabeth Elliot: Even if they didn?t have extra. I remember at least one time when one of the men had worked all day. For twelve hours a day, they hunted, as you recall. He came back with one little squirrel and he gave it to us. They didn?t even have one bite of meat. They insisted that we would eat the squirrel.
Valerie Shepard: That?s amazing. And that was even before they really knew Christ. Right? There was a natural kindness that came when they saw someone in need, which we were at times, weren?t we?
Well, I know that in my own comments to my children?and then I?ve watched my children grow?our opinion seems to matter so much to us that we feel like we need to express it. I watch my children saying unkind things or having to make a comment that was totally unnecessary. I remember Amy Carmichael?s injunctions to be kind in our words, to speak the truth and to speak only what was necessary because of the verse about, "Have your speech seasoned with grace."
I?ll never forget reading that over and over again in her books?always talking about how our speech must reflect the grace and kindness of Christ. So when I see my own children being unkind, I?ve been trying to teach them that it was unnecessary to say something. It was just their own opinion and it didn?t matter. They didn?t need to say it. It was unkind. It didn?t help that person.
So I have another quote from September 11 about kindness in the JOY AND STRENGTH book. First, there are two verses.
"Love worketh no ill to his neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law." And then from Proverbs, "In her tongue is the law of kindness."
This is a quote from Frederick Faber. "The worst kinds of unhappiness, as well as the greatest amount of it, come from our conduct to each other. If our conduct therefore were under the control of kindness"?or under the control of Christ, we would say?"it would be nearly the opposite of what it is, and so the state of the world would be almost reversed. We are, for the most part, unhappy because the world is an unkind world. But the world is only unkind for the lack of kindness in us units who compose it."
And then H. Bowman said this. "You feel in some families as if you were living between the glasses of a microscope?manner, accent, expression?all that goes to make up your personality, all that you do or leave undone, is commented upon and found fault with."
Then the last quote is: "If you would be loved as a companion, avoid unnecessary criticism upon those with whom you live."
I think of families sitting around tables all over the country. There can be such joy because there is kindness and courtesy and servitude among the children and the parents. But there can be such frustration, anger, sadness.
Elisabeth Elliot: Read that last quotation again.
Valerie Shepard: : "If you would be loved as a companion, avoid unnecessary criticism upon those with whom you live."
Elisabeth Elliot: Unnecessary criticism. Well, that hits me between the eyes, because I am so prone to be critical of everything and everybody. Lord, have mercy on me. He tells us that the fruit of the Spirit is "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." If we would read those qualifications every day and take them to heart, it could make a tremendous difference in the atmosphere of our homes, couldn?t it?
So I would certainly encourage our listeners today to stop and think, "Have I been unkind to someone to whom I need to apologize before the sun goes down? Have I remembered how important it is to be kind to those with whom we live?our husbands and our children?" If you?re single, maybe you have a single roommate. There can be conflicts, because we are all sinners. Yet the love of Christ overcomes all those rude feelings that we have. May God help us to be kind.
Lisa Barry: That?s a great antidote for self-pity, isn?t it? And lasting change in this area will only be possible through regular and faithful practice of such principles. How can we achieve that? Let me recommend the devotional book that Valerie read from just a moment ago. It?s called JOY AND STRENGTH. You?ll find something to apply each day of the year that will keep a check on wandering emotions.
Valerie will be back again tomorrow to talk about what it?s like being a pastor?s wife. That?s next time on Gateway to Joy.