When I was in college, I worked part-time at the campus games room. Pinball, table tennis and a Donkey Kong machine or two.
One of my trainers was a good Southern boy we’re going to refer to as JP.
JP was one of those Christians who spoke with the steady certainty of a person whose faith is so strong and true that converting or convincing you doesn’t even occur to them.
One day, while restocking the sour candies, I asked him about his post-college plans. With the same easy-like-sweet-tea pace that he always spoke, he told me he was going to move back to his hometown and marry his girlfriend.
The same girlfriend he’d spent the past 7 games room shifts complaining about. The girlfriend he said was controlling, demeaning, and I believe the exact word was “suffocating”.
What I said next destroyed my relationship with JP forever.
He was one of the first guys I had a meaningful and truly platonic relationship with, and with one word, I ended our friendship before it could fully take off.
I said, “Whyyyyy?”
He stared at my incredulous face and scrunched eyebrows of judgement for 10 long seconds before he spoke. He said something about everyone having flaws and they had a lot of history together. Then, he decided that one of the machines needed his attention and he walked off.
Often, it’s the small things that break someone’s heart.
We tend to assume that unkindness is mainly conveyed through large, dramatic actions. Slashed tires, promises broken or nasty name-calling. And those things certainly do fit the bill.
But we also hurt each other through the smallness of our actions and words. A condescending facial expression, not saying “thank you” or responding to someone’s dreams with a single word that contains the implications of so many others.
As you grow, as you get more (painful, highly inconvenient) practice, you will start to recognize those potent and pint-sized moments as opportunities to break or caress a heart. In the breath before you speak or the seconds before you hit Send, you’ll see the opportunity that is always there.
Even when you’re hurting, even when someone has said goodbye, even when life feels like a grind…
Use words of kindness.
See the space to fill with gratitude.
Stand for love.