I think I’ve finally come up with a way to articulate what drove me out of church (leaving aside that one time when I was actually invited to leave). It’s an attitude that gets projected a lot, and I’m not sure people even know they’re projecting it, because it’s highly unflattering. It goes a little something like this…
“I already have to be right, and now you expect me to be kind, too?”
Being right is tiring on its own. Constantly having to defend yourself against those who would disagree with you; spending your spare time finding more, and more involved, proof that yours is the correct view; ducking and dodging people whose questions you can’t answer, or attacking them. Whew.
Being kind is also tiring on its own – think of the last time you had a bad day, and recall how hard it was to be even marginally polite to anyone until you felt better – and sometimes, it contradicts some of those aspects of being right. In order to be kind, for example, you’d have to listen calmly and engage in polite discussion with the person who disagreed with you. Ugh.
So I get it. Being right is exhausting, and being kind is also exhausting, and being both is just too much for any human being to bear.
Which, then, should take priority? Being right, or being kind?
The attitude that drove me out of church says that being right is paramount. If I’m right, I don’t have to be kind, humble, peaceful, patient or self-controlled. I’m under no obligation to reach out to those on the other side of [insert issue here] from me; since I’m right, I can just call them names and move on, secure in my justification.
What do I say to this?
Well, since this blog says in the title that it’s about Christianity and stuff, I’m going to dig around in the Bible.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:34-40)
Anything in there about being right?
No, but there’s an awful lot in there about being kind.
I’m sure being right is very important. Lots of things are very important. Kindness, though, is name-dropped as a fruit of the Spirit. Kindness is presented as evidence of an attitude of love, which itself is the summation of the Law and the Prophets.
Might I suggest that if being kind and being right at the same time is just too exhausting, you set aside the pursuit of rightness and just be kind? You’ll still be tired, but my guess is it’ll be a good tired, like the one an athlete gets after a victory or like the one I get after a performance.
And for you musical learners like me: Last I checked, the words weren’t “And they’ll know we are Christians ’cause we’re right.”