Receiving Kindness is difficult
A friend sent me an article, “Ways to help the dying; what can you do”, which was written by a cancer lady a few months before her passing away. In the beginning of the article she said that it is difficult to ask for help even if someone says,” “Let me know if there’s anything I can do”. It is so true. Real kindness is so powerful that it brings encouragement, comfort, peace, and most importantly God’s love. Yet receiving kindness is as difficult as being kind to someone else.
The reasons are: Organizing the helpers is a hard work; it requires humility to accept help; we don’t want to be a burden for someone else or don’t want to owe obligation too much; we don’t want to be looked at with curious eyes and certainly want to avoid to become food for gossip; pleasing someone’s satisfaction to help us is a heavy burden, etc.
Lesson of being humble
As a Japanese I tend to worry how to return the kindness and get reluctant to receive it. Yet in such a moment, I recall a story that Peter refused Jesus offering to wash his dirty feet. The night before Jesus was arrested by Romans, He had the last supper with his 12 disciples. At that time He washed his disciples dirty feet one by one to demonstrate how to help each other. When Peter’s turn came, he said, “ No way! You are not going to wash my feet.” Then Jesus answered, “Then you won’t belong to me.” So after all he let Jesus wash his feet.
When someone offers me to wash my dirty feet (help), if I decline it, my relationship with the person stops there, but if I accept the help, the relationship becomes deeper. The help or the kindness comes from God—if I think so, that motivates me to be humble to accept and reduces the idea of obligation to return the favor. The Bible calls kindness you can’t return or you don’t deserve God’s Grace.
How to be kind
If I am on the side of offering help or kindness, I do so thinking behind that person is God. I have received so much Grace that it is never enough to return the kindness. If I am giving kindness for God’s sake, even if there is no ward of “thanks”, I should be OK.
When I had a ministry for Japanese organ transplant patients and their families, there was a family who raised more than $1 million as a medical cost by a special TV donation program. When the transplant surgery was done, the TV station asked the parents, who stayed up all night being anxious, for a special interview. As the exhausted parents asked if the mom could be excused and only dad would be in the interview, the answer was “ What do you think you are after receiving so much money from us?” The poor parents had no choice and had to accept everything the TV station demanded. This is an extreme example, but if there is a hook or expectation behind the help or kindness, this is like sales, or manipulation.
Love of respecting the other’s choice
I believe the most important basic to offer help or kindness is to respect a person’s choice. Even if we think we know better, or offering the best, we should ask if he/she likes it or not, and respect his/her choice.
In Japanese culture there is a virtue of consideration. Even if it’s your desire, Japanese would say, “No thank you” as a politeness. Because we assume “No, thank you” is not true, we say, “ Please don’t hesitate,” and give it any way as a consideration. This custom works most of the time beautifully in Japan, but if “No, thank you,” is real, this is stressful.
When George didn’t know Japanese culture yet, as he was invited to dine by Asian friends, he would be surprised by the host, who picked the food from a menu without asking him what he would like to have, or kept pouring the beer saying, “ Don’t hesitate, be free.” although George really meant “No thank you.”
I also remember some cancer patient writing that one day a bunch of friends came over her house with a lot of food, which she could not eat, saying to cheer her up. She welcomed them reluctantly trying to be polite, but she was totally exhausted to please the friends.
We try to please the other by doing what we think good for the person, but if it didn’t please him/her, this way of consideration or kindness would cause a damage.
“Wash the feet each other”
Perhaps because of this reason, I have read a famous Japanese Buddhist writer saying that being quiet is better than reaching out because we don’t know exactly what she/he wants and we should not offend her/ him. I understand the feeling but this is opposite of the Jesus teaching.
God gave us free will saying “Yes,” or “No,” when he created human beings. Even when we go the opposite way from His will, He continually persuades us but never forces us to correct our choice because giving choices and respecting the choice is a basic form of love. Then we all need to apply it when we want to be kind to someone else.
My experience of kindness has developed a strong affection towards God, and I am so thankful for those who have given me help or kindness since the very beginning of my cancer journey. Receiving so much Grace, my goal is to obey His teaching to keep washing the dirty feet of each other disciplining myself to be humble, and respect the other’s choice.