Learning to Prescribe Kindness

“You’re different than you used to be.” The comment came at the end of the visit with a patient I have known for over 20 years. “I’m not sure how to describe it, but you are different.”

“I’m nicer,” was my reply.

“That’s it! You are nicer.” It was as if she was afraid to say it for fear of insulting me. She didn't need to apologize. She wasn't the first person to notice. What she did not know was how the change occurred. I shared with her that one day over 15 years ago that I had stopped to perform a self-assessment, asking myself what people would likely say about me if I were to die. As I listed my dominant personality traits- passion, integrity, honesty, commitment to doing the right thing, I realized that there was something missing. I doubted that anyone would say I was kind. It was a sobering realization.

I told her that became my prayer, that God would make me kind. It proved to be a costly prayer, as within a few years a virus attacked my spine, bringing severe and debilitating pain. The pain faded, but the weakness and numbness never left. A few years later came panic attacks and anxiety disorder. These conditions brought me to my knees and opened my eyes to the struggles of others. They softened me and made me kinder.

She shared with me that she knew that I was someone keen on becoming a better person. She told me she was an avid reader of this blog (Hello Ms. D!) and that she had concluded that I was someone who was working on myself, someone who was trying to improve. I thought this was an incredible compliment, for to me, this should be one of the defining characteristics of a Christian.

We are all sinners, we are all broken and selfish. One of my greatest areas of brokenness over the years has been the tendency to use being “right” as a justification for not being kind or compassionate. God has been working on this part of my life for years now. I still have a long way to go, but if I am becoming a kinder person, if I can be described as someone who is less broken and less selfish with each passing day, then I am comforted knowing that God is doing his work in me. Which is... nice!

-          Bart

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