Our cellgroup meeting on Friday discussed how we should lead our life carefully and that we share ourselves and our faith through our deeds and words. A thought came to me towards the end. Somehow, I remember acts of kindness better than words of kindness, conversely I remember words of rebukes better than acts of rebukes.
Allow me to explain – I still remember the things that people do with kindness for me – I even remember seeing my grandma pouring hot bajigur (a traditional drink in West Java – consisting of milk and palm sugar) from one glass to the other repeatedly to cool it down as something that was very nice of her to do for me. I was probably around four or five then – my grandma passed away when I was six. I remember those who helped me when I was desperate – and yet I would struggle if I am asked to remember the words of kindness that people ever gave me. It seems that action speaks louder than words when it comes to love and kindness. Words are cheap and easily forgotten, but deeds are imprinted deeper.
On the other hand, I remember stinging rebukes and even harsh words that people said in the past. Some are warranted and for my character improvement, some are uncalled for and just plain nasty. I remember a girl who pulled me aside when I was a student in Adelaide in the early 1990’s – I was a serial latecomer then, and after a 30-minute or one-hour delay, I would rock up and say “Sorry!”. She told me point blank that I was being disrespectful to her and to the rest of the group, and that I should start respecting them and their time. I still remember her words now, nearly twenty years later. I also remember the taunts, jeers and dismissive comments that people made in the past about me. I disagree with the old saying of “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”. Although those words make me stronger and more resilient as a person, they hurt a lot when I heard them. Even warranted criticisms hurt when they are being delivered. On the other hand, I would have to think really hard to recall any past acts of rebukes or any actions that hurt me physically.
This insight has taught me a lesson that no matter how well I can preach until the cows come home, the words would mean little if I don’t express my love and kindness through my actions. On the other hand, if I want to rebuke or correct somebody, it means nothing if I beat around the bush and don’t say anything – and hoping that the other person would learn through my expressions or actions. I would need to be mature enough to give my words of rebuke wisely and effectively. It’s just too bad that so many people (including me) still get it wrong – we talk about love too much and we don’t express it enough. On the other hand, we show our displeasure or disapproval through our actions – or worse still, we give little hints and cryptic comments – hoping that the other person would understand through osmosis, when a direct verbal message would solve the issue once and for all.
Show acts of kindness sincerely, and speak words of rebukes wisely.