Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
Welcome to The Daily Prayer Team messages, each day includes a passage of scripture, a reflection, and a prayer. Sponsored by Saint John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:31-32
Pain is a part of life. Some pain is necessary, even good. For instance, it’s not all that pleasant at the dentist when they are scratching the plaque off of your teeth. I can’t exactly say I look forward to that. However, after I’m done, the pain is worth it, to have clean teeth.
Inflicting pain on others is also necessary at times. If you tell your child to turn the TV off and do his or her homework, you are causing pain to your child, who gets upset. But ultimately, that pain is for the child’s own good, because if he or she doesn’t do well in school, they won’t do well in life.
Most pain, however, is bad. It is no fun to be home sick. I would gladly give up being sick to go back to work. However, sickness is unavoidable. At many points in life, we get sick, that’s just part of living in a fallen world. So that pain is “justifiable.” We can rationalize that we will all have the pain of sickness.
The pain of losing a loved one really stings. The hardest thing to wrap our heads around intellectually is when someone dies. It’s the finality of it that is so hard to comprehend. We can lose a job, and go get another one. We can lose money, and then go get more. We can get really sick, and still have hope for recovery. Our children will leave and go to college, but it’s not like we won’t ever see them again. When someone passes away, the finality of no tomorrow is very hard to comprehend. This pain is awful. However, even this pain is normal and expected, we will all go through it.
There is another kind of pain that is avoidable. It’s not a good pain either. It is not a purposeful pain. It is the pain we inflict on one another for no reason. No, this is not the pain a parent causes a child when he tells his son he’s had too many French fries this week and tonight he’s eating asparagus. This is not even the pain of a relationship breaking up because it is not working. It is the pain that is senseless. It’s the pain of a bully who picks on someone mercilessly. That is not necessary, productive or positive in any way. It is the pain of someone who pokes and needles someone for no reason. It is the pain of someone who puts people down constantly. It is the pain of someone who speaks loud enough to trample on anyone who raises a voice in opposition. It is the pain of someone who goes and speaks against someone and ruins their reputation for no reason. These kinds of pains are really unnecessary. And yet we experience them all the time. We all are on the receiving end of pains like this. And sadly, we are all on the inflicting end of pain like this.
I know that I cause pain to people, sometimes unintentionally, and sadly, sometimes intentionally. This is an area in which I want to improve. There are people who also cause me pain, unintentionally and sometimes intentionally. When it is unintentional, there needs to be forgiveness. When it is intentional, there needs to be patience on my part, and repentance on the other person’s.
Some people inflict pain and they don’t know it, or they don’t think what they are doing causes pain to others. It’s just “Johnny (or insert any other name) being Johnny.” It’s hard to know what to do with people in this category. Most people who do wrong deep down know that what they are doing is wrong, even when they pretend they aren’t. Those who do wrong and who can’t conceive that what they are doing is wrong exhibit sociopathic tendencies. Left unchecked, people in this category inflict a lot of pain on a lot of people.
The key, I believe, to the problem of pain, is kindness. If we resolve each day to be kind, to speak kindly, to think kind thoughts, it will be much harder to turn around and inflict pain on others. Even if pain is involved, as it is in when we correct a child, we can deliver the message with kindness. And when we find “Johnny being Johnny,” we should encourage (even strongly encourage) Johnny to be kind by modeling kindness and applauding him when Johnny is kind. You’d be surprised how encouragement results in better behavior. Better to “kill with kindness” or rather “build up with kindness” than to meet meanness with even more meanness.
We see acts of kindness and unkindness on a daily basis. We also see pain on a daily basis—some of which is necessary, and a lot of which is not. Most of the pain we inflict on other people is totally unnecessary. And I don’t know what drives it, though most likely it is insecurity. Kindness and encouragement breed confidence which tends to lessen insecurity.
So, be kind today. If you have to say something negative, say it as kindly as possible. Look for opportunities to encourage others. Lend an ear to someone who wants to talk. Lots of times, unkindness rears its head simply because someone is crying out for attention. There are lots of ways to express kindness. I’m sure there would be a lot less pain in the world if there were a little more kindness. Kindness can’t stop all pain, and all pain isn’t bad. However, there is a lot of pain that is unnecessary, and kindness can go a long way to stopping this kind of pain.
Lord, help me to be kind today. When I have to say something that is corrective, please help me to be kind as I do it. Bring people into my path today whom I can show kindness to. Help me to be an instrument of kindness is a world filled with so much pain. Amen.
Be intentionally kind today!
These readings are under copyright and are used by permission. All rights reserved. These works may not be further reproduced, in print or on other websites or in any other form, without the prior written authorization of the copyright holder: Reading © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA, Apolytikion of Abbot Marcellus © Narthex Press, Kontakion of Abbot Marcellus © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA.
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
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