The Courage of Kindness

Andrew - Bauman - Kindness -

Much of our work at The Allender Center is rooted in the core belief that it is the kindness of God that leads to repentance (Romans 2:4)—not judgement or coercion. It’s no surprise, then, that most of us are far less comfortable with kindness than we are with shame or contempt. Here, therapist and writer Andrew J. Bauman reflects on the deep courage required to view ourselves with honest, life-giving kindness. This post is an excerpt from Andrew’s new book, Stumbling Toward Wholeness.

“I am so tired of waiting,
Aren’t you,
For the world to become good
And beautiful and kind?”
–Langston Hughes

Only after a decade of walking through my own healing process and having the sacred privilege of walking alongside hundreds of people through theirs has the power of God’s kindness to transform become tangible to me. Shame and contempt are not motivators for change; rather, they are hammers that drive sin deeper into our souls. Proverbs 11:17 says, “Your kindness will reward you, but your cruelty will destroy you” (NLT).

Until the beginning of my own therapeutic work, I didn’t even know that self-contempt was a problem. Now the way I treat myself on a daily basis has changed, as has my understanding of how God’s kindness and blessing lead us all to the freedom we long for. The apostle Paul says in Romans 2:4 that God’s kindness “leads us into a radical life-change” (MSG). The greatest motivator for my own transformation has been the kindness and blessing of God. I continue to learn how to live into what I believe is most true of me. Therapist Sam Jolman writes, “No one changes in a continuous straight upward path. Change always involves stumbling and failing and just outright blowing it. And therefore, change requires immense kindness and grace. If we have no compassion for ourselves, we simply cannot muster the energy needed to get back up and keep going.” Kindness to self is a lost art in Christendom, yet without it we become stuck in the early part of the restoration journey. Kindness is the grease of God to get our transformation moving. Kindness gives us the ability to press on even in the darkest of times.

The greatest motivator for my own transformation has been the kindness and blessing of God.

I remember when I began my journey toward kindness. The power was captured in a grainy, faded picture of me and my father on a beach somewhere in Florida. I was probably five or six; he was slender, strong, and good looking, his arms holding me as I ran away in absolute joy of being chased by my father.

The picture sat on my desk for a few years. Many days it was just too painful to look at. I longed to believe that the laughter on our faces was real—that my father loved me. Did this picture capture the pinnacle of the relationship between my father and me? Did it depict his longing to be in relationship with me? Or was this one of the only moments when father and son would ever truly be father and son? The picture haunted me. I would get lost in this iconic image of what could have been, what should have been, what was not, and what never will be. For some reason, I kept looking for hope in the photo, as if God were calling me back into the pain to address some unfinished business. I felt as though the picture would help me discover answers to my present-day struggles of loving myself. I kept dreaming that if only I would look deep enough, six-year-old Andrew would hear my adult voice whispering, “Everything is going to be okay. Never give up. You will become a great man, Andrew. You do not have to prove anything. You are enough. You are loved. I am so proud of you.”

Over the years, I have been learning to speak this way to myself, to bless myself with kindness. I bless my young, hurting boy who needed to be fathered. I give myself a love and affirmation that I never received. I have discovered that I can father the fragments of myself that remained so orphaned up to that point, nurse the broken pieces, and wait patiently for them to heal.

This is the experience of the Father Realm: parenting our younger selves through whatever means we can find. Engagement with this transforming kindness comes through confrontation, play, and blessing.

Adapted from Stumbling Toward Wholeness by Andrew J. Bauman. Released September 18, 2018 from NavPress. Copyright © 2018. Used by permission of NavPress and Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.