On Christmas day last year we took our son out to IHOP for dinner since no one felt like cooking, and we had a very pleasant time visiting with him. The place was packed, of course, and our waitress was busy. We were quite happy with her, however, as she was attentive and friendly despite the fact that she had to work on a holiday and was obviously running from table to table trying to keep up with everyone.
When we were getting ready to leave our son told her, “God bless you,” and we were surprised when tears came to her eyes. She quickly blinked them away but we asked her what was wrong. I could tell she didn’t want to get into great detail, or sound like she was complaining, but we did manage to find out the source behind her emotion. She said that she had had several extremely difficult customers earlier that day who weren’t so nice to her, and she really appreciated the kind words.
We came away from our dinner feeling a little saddened by the thought that people who are supposed to be celebrating Christmas, a holiday known for goodwill and love, were instead spreading anger and hurt feelings to those who are giving up their own holiday to provide us with a pleasant dining experience.
Whatever happened to good old-fashioned kindness? When did it become okay to be rude to not only total strangers, but our closest friends and family as well? At what point does a person’s need to vent their frustration become a priority over the feelings and emotions of those around them?
And this isn’t an isolated case. You can see this every day. Just look at today’s top headlines and it’s obvious that most of the problems boil down to a simple case of not being nice. In today’s world people are encouraged to “express their feelings”, but unfortunately what people don’t realize is that the freedom to express our feelings quite often can hurt other people. And what’s worse is that most of us don’t even think about it. It’s almost become normal to be rude.
This isn’t just limited to non-Christians. Over the years I’ve seen people who profess to love God treat people with the same rude behavior our poor waitress had to deal with. And at times, I must confess, I have been just as guilty. Rude behavior and unkind words can be so easy to slip into that at times we don’t even realize we’re doing it, and by then the damage has been done.
In 1st Corinthians 13:4-7 the Bible says, “Love is patient, love is kind, it isn’t jealous, it doesn’t brag, it isn’t arrogant, it isn’t rude, it doesn’t seek its own advantage, it isn’t irritable, it doesn’t keep a record of complaints, it isn’t happy with injustice, but it is happy with the truth. Love puts up with all things, trusts in all things, hopes for all things, endures all things.” (CEB)
What this means is that as Christians we must strive to be different than the world. We must use our words to bless others, to show them Christ’s love by being kind and loving to them, to treat them as Christ would treat us. Being kind takes hard work, it takes a conscious effort to put our own feelings and emotions aside and put someone else’s first.
After all, being kind is the nice thing to do, and if we can’t be nice then are we really following Christ?