LIVE NOT BY LIES: 7 Questions for Lovers of the Truth

Live Not By Lies, Rod Dreher Book, Truth

We have to be push-backers, Abigail. Truth demands it. That from a recent email from a friend-who-shall-go-unnamed. This post is that: a little pushback. It is not a call to civil disobedience, to wear a mask or to take it off, or even to vote.

It is a call to not live by lies—a call to be courageous and walk in the truth in love and in truth. Both. John Stott wrote, Our love grows soft if it is not strengthened by truth, and our truth grows hard if it is not softened by love; John the Beloved, Let us not love in word or talk but in action and in truth. They belong together. Believers love truth (2 Thessalonians 2:10).

Truth is so obscure in these times, and falsehood so established, that, unless we love the truth, we cannot know it.

Blaise Pascal

So when the world calls evil good, bitter sweet, and darkness light (Isaiah 5:20), those of the truth refuse. They refuse to drift along or succumb to self-righteous masquerade. Rather, because they love the truth, they push back against pretense.

They live not by lies.

1. Are You A Push-Backer?

Do you ever push back for truth? Or only ever go along?

I’m not (naturally) a push-backer and I don’t (generally) like to rock the boat. But sometimes a shift is too important to ignore. When it comes at you on multiple sides you can’t let it slide out of mind. You’d be a fool not to take note. I don’t want to be a fool.

So I took notes and now I share them. Because my friend is right. We must be push-backers. Truth demands it. Since Jesus is the truth (John 14:6), as his follower I must walk in truth. The Father commanded (2 John 4) and the Spirit guides this walk (John 14:16-17).

In fact, did you know truth is the reason Christ came into the world? For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice (John 18:37). And, at some point, everyone who is of the truth will push back for truth.

But for a some time people pleaser like me, pushing back can be hard.

2. Do You Trust God’s Truth And Doubt Your Deceitful Heart?

Culture makes it hard. For one thing, our culture cherishes moral ambiguity as an end in itself, as an intrinsically good thing; theologian D.A. Carson notes. Humble Christians trust God to be true (Isaiah 66:2) and doubt their deceitful hearts (Jeremiah 17:9).

But the world does the reverse. Be true to your heart, it shouts. How can you be so sure, it taunts. If you trust God—if you “stand alone on the Word of God, the B-I-B-L-E” and believe the sum of his word is truth (Psalm 119:160)— now that, it sneers, is most virulent form of pride.

This reversal is nothing new. G.K. Chesterton described it a century ago, when he wrote,

[W]hat we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert – himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt – the Divine Reason.

Do you see? We should doubt ourselves—our feelings, desires, and ‘needs’— not God’s truth.

But believing a truth and speaking it are two different things. Gabi taught me that.

3. Do You Speak Up For Truth?

It was a Friday night in July. Maybe it was pushback to even be where we were. I’m not sure. But the after-dinner mood was light and Gabi was right across the table from me. We’d only met the hour before, but I sensed my new friend from the Czech Republic wouldn’t mind if I asked.

Truth not lies, Forward Statue in Madison, WI Capitol painted red,2020

So what was it like to live under communism?

Gabi was in middle school in 1989, when the Wall fell. Almost overnight, she replied.

That’s how fast her teachers went from denouncing democracy to decrying communism. Her school dumped the pro-communism for pro-republic curricula—taught by the very same teachers who’d spouted the party line mere months before.

How could they do that? I asked, incredulous. What do you think they really believed?

I think there was relief when communism fell and they could teach the truth. They taught what they were told to keep their jobs.

Since statue toppling and painting was big in the news, I pressed on.

So what about all these statues toppled and defaced?

Without blinking, Oh, yes. That happened in Czechoslovakia shortly before Soviet rule.

My stomach churned with the same tension I’d felt a lot in 2020 when I felt torn to like a friend’s post or affirm her position—even if it didn’t sit right. Gabi was insightful and wise, and still across the table from me. So I asked the burning question.

When do I just go along when and when do I speak up for truth?

I think—here Gabi paused and took a deep breath—you must be true to your conscience. If your conscience says it’s wrong, do not go along.

4. Do You Lower Your Voice And Close The Door?

Rod Dreher said the same thing Gabi did in Live Not By Lies: A Manual For Christian Dissidents. The title comes from an essay by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, dated February 12, 1974 —the same day Russian secret police broke into his apartment and arrested him. He was exiled to West Germany the next day. Live Not By Lies, the essay and the book, are clarion calls to courage for those who are of the truth.

But courage to push back against lies doesn’t mean we refuse all compromise. Daily life requires assessing which fights are worth having. Choose your battles. Though one must guard against rationalization, prudence is not the same thing as cowardice. (p. 105)

Sometimes silence is an act of resistance. My refusal to like a popular post or parrot a trendy mantra is choosing to live not by lies. Judit Pastor, whose father was arrested for vocally opposing Ceausescu in 1968 was arrested and his life destroyed in a Romanian prison. She says, Keeping silent when you aren’t expected to be silent is also pushing back.

A year ago, I wouldn’t have believed the restrictions, “soft” restrictions, I now feel on freedom of speech. I am loath to admit that I close more doors and look over my shoulder far more often when I speak in public places. I wonder, “Can I trust her with this? Should I say that in front of him?”

This is new. It’s a shift. I never used to wonder like this.

We have not…to march into the squares and shout the truth out loud…But let us refuse to say that which we do not think.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, “Live Not By Lies,” 2/12/1974

A Primer On “Soft” Totalitarianism

I don’t fear arrest by government police. That happened in Soviet era where compliance to the Party’s demands were enforced by the state. That’s not what we’ve got. The totalitarianism we face is “softer.” It demands allegiance to a set of progressive beliefs… It masquerades as kindness, demonizing dissenters and disfavored demographic groups to protect the feelings or “victims.” I’m not worried about arrest as much as Facebook nixing my post, or a “fact-checker” blocking a link. I have, by the way, experienced both.

Compliance within soft totalitarianism, Dreher explains, is forced less by the state than by elites who form public opinion, and by private corporations, that thanks to technology, control our lives far more than we would like to admit. (p. 8-9) Anyone else second guessing your open invitation to Echo and Alexa?

But no, this is not a copy of life in the Soviet Bloc nations, with their secret police, gulags, and strict censorship. Which is precisely the problem, according to the many émigrés Dreher interviewed who had experienced “hard” totalitarianism. One Czech émigré, a professor in the Midwest, told Dreher about the shift he feels: friends would lower their voices and look over their shoulders when expressing conservative views. I grew up like this, he said, but it was not supposed to happen here. (p. xiii)

I agree with Dreher: it’s hard for us who’ve never lived through such “idealogical fog” to recognize what’s happening.

But don’t forget the frog in the pot.

Silence Doesn’t Save Us, It Corrodes Us

Part of the reason it all feels so foggy is that language is changing. Newspeak, here Dreher borrows from Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, is the Party’s word for the jargon it imposes on society—it controls the categories in which people think. “Freedom” is slavery, “truth” is falsehood, and so forth. Doublethink—”holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them”—is how people learn to submit their minds to the Party’s ideology. If the Party says 2+2=5, then 2+2=5. (p. 14)

We might see through the lies, but will we speak up? But if we never do, our silence will not save us but corrode us. So says Czeslaw Milosz. He would know. Milosz was exiled from his native Poland as an anti-communist dissident in 1951.

To dissent costs more these days. To even post this blog gives me pause. But walking in truth constrains me to write and encourage you to live not by lies. Because when you see someone acting courageously, you will act courageously as well. (p. 170)

5. Do You Prefer the ‘Peace’ of Conformity to the Tension of Liberty?

Dreher interviewed Vladimir Grygorenko, an immigrant from the Ukraine. He expressed concern over polls showing waning support for the First Amendment. Grygorenko sees this as a sign of a society that prefers the false peace of conformity to the tensions of liberty. He added, To grow indifferent, even hostile, to free speech is suicidal for free people. (p. 104)

I walked and talked and ached with a friend over our difference this morning. I bear witness: tension, discomfort, and hurt feelings are the price our free expression. But wouldn’t your rather bear the tension of our differences, as our Founding Fathers did, than enjoy a false peace of conformity? Wouldn’t you?

What I did with my friend—imperfectly as I apologized twice in 20 minutes for raising my voice—we must all do. We must speak up. We must be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger (James 1:19), but we must “truth it in love” and grow up (Ephesians 4:15).

You have to live in a world of lies, Dreher concludes, but it’s our choice as to whether that world of lies lives in you. (p. 105)

The Greengrocer Breaks The Rules

One of the most gripping sections in the book was the Greengrocer story.

The grocer posts a sign in his shop bearing the well-known slogan from the Communist Manifesto, “Workers of the world, unite!” But the grocer doesn’t believe in it. He hangs it in the store to signal conformity. He just wants to be left alone.

But his action is not meaningless. As Dreher explains, the grocer’s act, “not only confirms that this is what is expected of one in a communist society but also perpetuates the belief that this is what it means to be a good citizen.” Then he quotes Vaclav Havel, one time Czech political prisoner who became the Czech Republic’s first President.

Let us now imagine that one day something in our greengrocer snaps and he stops putting up the slogans merely to ingratiate himself. He stops voting in elections he knows are a farce. He begins to say what he really things at political meetings. And he even finds the strength to express solidarity with those whom his conscience commands him to support. In this revolt the greengrocer steps out of living within the lie. He rejects the ritual and breaks the rules of the game…His revolt is an attempt to live within the truth. (p. 98)

And Shatters the World of Appearances

But this act is costly. He loses his shop, his salary is cut, and he can’t travel abroad. Maybe his children can’t get into college. People mock him. If not because they disagree with him, then to keep the authorities off their back. By refusing to mouth a lie, the man suffers.

But there is a deeper meaning to his gesture,

By breaking the rules of the game, he has disrupted the game as such. He has exposed it as a mere game. He has shattered the world of appearances, the fundamental pillar of the system. The grocer has…demonstrated that living a lie is living a lie…He has said that the emperor is naked…He has shown everyone that it is possible to live within the truth. (p. 99)

Maybe you’re shaking your head, saying, Get off it, Abigail. Lighten up.

Last year I would have agreed. But now I say, The kind of Christians we will be in the time of testing depends on the kind of Christians we are today. (p. 204)

What are you willing to risk—to sacrifice—for the sake of truth?

6. Will You Choose Comfort Over Your Soul’s Health?

Because if you live by lies and never push back for truth, your spiritual health will suffer. A person who lives only for his own comfort, said Havel, who is willing to live within a lie to protect that is a demoralized person. (p. 99)

Havel’s words remind me of something J.I. Packer wrote. Packer sets up the analogy by describing first how our bodies are like machines, that need the right routine of food, rest, and exercise to run efficiently. Conversely, if they’re filled up with “the wrong fuel—alcohol, drugs, poison—they lose physical health and ultimately ‘seize up’ in death.”

Then, to our point,

What we are, perhaps, slower to grasp is that God wishes us to thing of our souls in a similar way. As rational persons, we were made to bear God’s moral image—that is, our souls were made to ‘run’ on the practice of worship, law-keeping, truthfulness, honesty, discipline, self-control, and service to God and our fellows. If we abandon these practices, not only do we incur guilt before God; we also progressively destroy our souls. Conscience atrophies, the sense of shame dries up, one’s capacity for truthfulness, loyalty, and honesty is eaten away, one’s character disintegrates. One not only becomes desperately miserable; one is steadily being de-humanised.

J.I., Packer, KNOWING GOD, 102-103

Simply put, believing one thing and doing another will ruin your spiritual health. Living by lies will enslave your soul. It might seem like a liar is strong, and his lie is a victory over his victim. But in reality, a lie is an enslaving act.

Because, as Ayn Rand wrote, one surrenders one’s reality to the person to whom one lies, making that person one’s master, condemning oneself from then on to faking the sort of reality that person’s view requires to be faked.

Maria Wittner said, We live in a world of lies, whether we want it or not. But you shouldn’t accommodate to it. She would know. Her refusal to go along with the Party lies landed in a Hungarian prison. It’s an individual decision if you want to live in the freedom of the soul. If your soul is free, then your thoughts are free, and then your words are going to be free.

Refusing to live by lies isn’t always comfortable, but comfort is overrated. The idol of comfort will disappoint. C.S. Lewis observed, If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth—only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.

If you refuse to live by the lie, whatever it costs you, you will gain a spiritual victory. And this is the victory that overcomes the world—our faith. (1 John 5:4) But God doesn’t mean for us to conquer alone.

7. Are You Walking Together And Alert?

Blogger Trevin Wax thinks LNBL is too pessimistic. Maybe so. In an interview with Eric Metaxas, Dreher himself said his book is not optimistic, but it is hopeful.

I read it and I agree. It’s hopeful because it says we are not without options and because it is a call to be alert.

That call to be alert and watchful so we’re ready for the Bridegroom is not new. Jesus urged us, Peter urged us, Paul urged us: be alert, stay awake, be watchful (Matt. 24:42, 1 Pet. 1:13, Eph.6:18).

Christian community helps us does that. That came through loud and clear in all of Dreher’s interviews with Christians who kept the faith under communism. To stay alert and remind ourselves of truth, Dreher prescribes the Christian dissident form small cells with fellow believers with whom she can pray, sing, study Scripture… (p. 18)

Rod Dreher wasn’t the first to note the connection between living in loving relationships with other believers and being alert. John praises his readers for “walking in the truth” (2 John 4), then reminded them “to love one another” (v. 5), expressed by “walking according to his commandments” (v. 6). Those words probably don’t surprise us: truth, obedience, love.

But it’s the connection in verse 7 that grabbed me, the reason we must not let our love grow cold (Mtt. 24:12). Love one another, John writes, For many deceivers have gone out into the world. Walking with others in love is a protection against deception.

When we walk side by side we gain strength to live not by lies.

The Final Word: Touchstone For Truth

None of this is easy. Lies aren’t always obvious. The conscience is pricked at different points. But the Christian, as J.I Packer described, is the one, who acknowledges and lives under the word of God. She says with the Psalmist, The sum of your word is truth.

He submits without reserve to the word of God written in ‘the Scripture of truth’ (Dan. 10:21)…since the Scriptures tell him that all things work together for his good, the thought of God ordering his circumstances brings him only joy. He is an independent fellow, for he uses the word of God as a touchstone by which to test the various views that are put to him, and he will not touch anything which he is not sure that Scripture sanctions.

J.I., Packer, KNOWING GOD, p. 104-105

But we need to the Spirit to illumine and help us apply the word. I feel my need acutely. My sin is ever before me.

Solzhenitsyn, for all his calls to resist totalitarian rule, knew well his own sinful heart: “the greatest totalitarian ruler of all—myself.” We are not gods. We never will be gods. But we can know the true God.

I know him. I don’t know him as well as I want to know him, but I know He is the Truth. By grace, I will press on to know him, whose truth is a fount of perfect wisdom, my highest good and my unending need. His name is Jesus Christ and you can know him too.

For only when we know him can the truth set us free— free from slavery to deadly self-rule and free to live not by lies.

And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

1 John 5:20

AFTERWARD: If You’re Still Wondering What It Means to Live Not By Lies

Even if, Solzhenitsyn wrote, we do not march into the squares and shout the truth out loud… let us refuse to say what we do not think…let us each make a choice: whether to remain consciously a servant of falsehood…or to shrug off the lies and become an honest man worthy of respect from one’s children and contemporaries.

Such a person, Solzhenitsyn wrote, will not:

  • sign, write or print in any way a single phrase which in his opinion distorts the truth;
  • utter such a phrase neither in private conversation nor in public, neither on his own behalf nor at the prompting of someone else, neither in the role of agitator, teacher, educator, nor as an actor;
  • depict, foster or broadcast a single idea in which he can see a distortion of the truth, whether it be in painting, sculpture, photography, technical science or music;
  • cite out of context, either orally or in writing, a single quotation to please someone, to feather his own nest, to achieve success in his work, if he does not completely share the idea which is quoted, or if it does not accurately reflect the matter at issue;
  • allow himself to be compelled to attend demonstrations and meetings if they are contrary to his desire;
  • remain in a meeting, session, lecture, performance or film if he hears a speaker tell lies, or purvey ideological nonsense or shameless propaganda;
  • subscribe to or buy a newspaper or magazine in which information is distorted and primary facts are concealed.

While these are not “all possible and necessary ways of avoiding lies,” wrote Solzhenitsyn, “whoever begins to cleanse himself will easily apply the cleansing pattern to other cases.” Learn more in John Stonestreet’s probing 4-minute Breakpoint podcast.

How will you resolve to live not by lies? I’d love to read your comment.

Firm Core, Soft Edges

Kathy is not usually confrontational. And I used to think she was nice. 

By nice, I mean sweet and agreeable. Maybe a tiny bit superficial. Sunny and seventies and no clouds in the sky. I like your shirt and Have a great weekend. Sugar cookies and sweet tea. That nice.

But one conversation with Kathy last week confirms it. Now I know better.

Kathy is not nice.

Not Necessarily Nice

Niceness isn’t bad, per se. But in an age when conviction’s sharp edges cut down bridges and at the same time truth mutes itself and neuters love, we really must get to know kindness. 
In his praise for Barry Corey’s new book, Love KindnessRandy Alcorn nails it. There shouldn’t be this dichotomy. Grace can coexist with truth. But, writes Alcorn, 

Too many Christians choose between standing for truth and demonstrating grace, and the result is self-righteous meanness disguised as truth or indifferent tolerance disguised as grace…The church today desperately needs the humility that rejects mean-spirited religion and exemplifies kindness while upholding biblical truth. 

Many of us equate kindness with niceness. I did. We think kind means spongy and soft and never upsetting. We see nice as milquetoast and mild-mannered and never hurt a fly.

But it’s not that.

It’s a firm core of truth and soft edges of grace. Kind of like a Koosh ball. Remember those?

My brother would dangle it by its stretchy rubber strings. Sometimes, I’d fumble around with the filaments until my fingers found where they connected.

Flexible met firm at the core. Kind of like kindness.

Firm Core, Soft Edges

Corey doesn’t mention Koosh balls. But they kept tossing around my mind as I raced through Love Kindness. I saw them first in the book’s introduction, where Corey explains,

In today’s polarized culture, we are often pulled toward one extreme of the other, soft centers or hard edges…Kindness is the way of firm centers and soft edges. 

Kindness enables us to negotiate in a time when negotiating is dying and friendly discussions are yielding to rancor.  

Whereas aggression has a firm center and hard edges, niceness has soft edges and a spongy center. Niceness may be pleasant but it lacks conviction. It has no soul. 

Kindness is strong yet humble. Kindness is honesty and looks like truth with love. David believed this, writing, “Let a righteous man strike me-that is a kindness.”

In short, kindness is living life with a firm center and soft edges. It has real power to influence others for good, because it deals in that precious, divine currency-grace joined to truth. 

Useful And Profitable

Kindness in Greek is chrestotesIt means useful and profitable. It’s more than sentiment. It’s a quality of being helpful and beneficial, of seeking to improve and bless others. It’s much more “Let me carry that for you,” and “Need a shoulder rub?” than “What a tough load,” and “I’m sorry you’re stressed.” Kindness is more like Let me watch your kids than I’m thinking of you while John travels this week.

Not that tender-hearts and sympathy aren’t good and healing. They are. But they’re not kindness. They’re not chrestotes. When Jesus said, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden,” he appealed with kindness. His yoke, he said, was easy- chrestos, kind- and his load was light.

Soft edges anchored to a firm core sounds a lot like Paul’s becoming all things to all men that [he] might save someAnd like conversations full of grace and seasoned with salt, and doing good to all men and a being quick to listen. It is an others-focused way of life that spills out of a Christ-centered, rock-solid core of biblical conviction.

It is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance. And the promotion of his own kindness is the very grounds of our salvation. The very reason God made us alive with Christ, Paul wrote, was so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Who was overflowingly full of grace and truth.

This is kindness. 

Being Receivable

Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. Matthew 10:40
Being receivable, for God’s sake, was front-burner for Hugh Corey. In Love Kindness, Corey recounts just how close this uncommon concept was to his dad’s heart.

“Barry,” he said, “if the lives God intersects with mine don’t have the opportunity to receive me, how will they ever know the love God has for them? I’ve got to live my life so strangers, friends, aching, lonely, family-they receive me,” he said. “And through me they see God’s inexhaustible love.” 

Clearly, Corey’s father was a very kind man. He is quick to clarify, though, that living to be receivable is not the same as living to be received. Being received is out of our control. But we can make ourselves receivable.

This is living kindly. This is aiming to remove, or at least reduce, the obstacles those around us have to faith. This is pre-eminent in my parenting prayers: Lord, help me live so that the boys see you for who you are. Help me not to be a stumbling block to their seeking you. The Apostle Paul lived to be receivable. We endure all things so we cause no obstacle to the gospel of Christ

The way of kindness, explains Corey is often self-effacing, Koosh-strand flexibility, receivable kindness, does not get hung up on looking perfect. People are far more receivable, Corey writes, when they don’t take themselves too seriously.

Even so, living a humble, receivable life is no guarantee we will be received.  In fact, Jesus promises that his own will be rejected and hated. “Whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me” (Luke 10:16). There’s union with Christ even then.

Conversing With Kindness 

When kindness walks into a room it isn’t thinking, Here I am. Instead it’s thinking, There you are. That is the way of kindness. Kindness listens to understand rather than waits to interject self. 
Kindness, writes Corey, calls us to enter conversations with those whose perspectives differ from ours. He details a candid conversation he shared with a lesbian friend, and adds,

Sometimes in our zeal for a firm center, we default to lectures from the sidelines rather than initiating gracious conversation with those whose standards are different from our own. When we respond this way, our edges calcify, and grace is lost in a fight for truth (p. 54).

This builds walls not bridges. Bony-hard edges don’t make for a good hug.

But soft centers with soft edges aren’t biblically kind either. In Jesus’ way of kindness, we can be confident in our beliefs and be comfortable listening to those with differing views.

The point isn’t to be respected or even to become friends. It’s also not to avoid awkwardness or to avoid making someone feel uncomfortable. Sometimes discomfort is just what the doctor ordered to set things right.

The point of kindness
, says Corey, is to represent Jesus. When we are genuine and winsome, we are able to point them to their greatest good, which is found only in the gospel (p. 54). Love is patient and kind and true love, John Piper asserts, is doing whatever you have to do to help people see and treasure the glory of God as their supreme joy. 

Which means that conversations borne of kindness are not simply for shooting the breeze. Instead, with patience and humility, we do aim to convince.

But that after listening and learning what we didn’t understand.

Why Kindness?

As President of Biola University, Barry Corey walks this talk. In 2012 some Biola alumni formed the Biola Queer Underground (BQU). Its goals were to raise awareness about same-sex attracted Biola grads and to pressure the university to change its sexual behavior policy. 
Talk about a prime-time for Corey’s receivable kindness to shine.
And shine it did. Barry Corey called some of the more vocal gay alumni a few weeks after the BQU rocked the Biola world, even placing it, and him, in the national news. Over lunch one day, thousands of miles from his home, they talked. And Barry Corey listened and learned. 
Corey was so moved by the conversation that he invited a same-sex group of alumni to share their stories with Biola’s faculty a few months later. They did. And there were tears and pleas, he writes, but no fists or raised voices. Biola did not change its stance on sexuality. It did express kindness. 
Corey explains, 

Kindness does not mean we assent to cultural norms or that we give people a pass to feed their own moral appetites under the guise of individual choice or because, “God loves us anyway.” God’s kind of kindness is far different from niceness or tolerance because it leads us to see his holiness and purity and from there, to see our own depravity (p. 66). 

In short, God’s kindness is meant to lead us to repentance. As imitators of God, ours should too.

Humility, Not Dichotomy

Kindness is not anything goes. And it’s also not talk ‘atcha and fly. Kindness is way harder than both of those– way more supernatural. It is our job to keep a firm core, which strangely accentuates soft edges. External flexibility, writes Corey, does not have to equate to internal weakness. 

But kindness that bends to accept as valid everyone else’s viewpoint is not kindness. We can be kind and assured of truth. We can be kind and encourage one another toward righteousness.

Kindness pairs well with humility. Paul puts the two together in Colossians 2, Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility.

Like kindness, humility is often confused.

Jon Bloom explains how,

[H]umble people aren’t always what we think they ought to be. They are disagreeable when truth must be valued over relational harmony. They are un-submissive when conformity mars God’s glory. And their company can be unpleasant, even undesired, when their wounding words are kinder than selfish flattery or silence.

Which brings me back to Kathy. Kathy who was kind enough to me to hold out the truth in love to help me grow up in Christ (Ephesians 4:15-16).

Hard Core Kindness

Let a righteous man strike me, it is a kindness. Let him rebuke me- it is oil on my head; let my head not refuse it. Psalm 141:5

Kathy is a gentlewoman through and through. In the decade I’ve known her, her words have never wounded. They only ever nurture. Kathy is ever calm, never loud, always and forever gracious. I only ever enjoyed brushing against her Kooshy soft edges when we walk and talk.

Kathy listened. She was, as she always is, soft on the edges and truly present when we walked and I talked last week.

Oh, was I angry! He knew that Friday is Gabe’s party. We wrote it on our calendars a month ago. Then last night he told me he’s got a golf outing with his friends all day. Which means he’ll miss most of the party. The whole family’s coming at four and he won’t get home until six or seven o’clock. It just burns me. 

When came up for air and sweet Kathy caught me by surprise.

Abbi, can I give you a challenge?  

Gulp. Oh, dear. Of course. Firm core incoming.

When you get home tonight, why don’t you tell Jim to go golfing as planned and to have fun with the guys? Tell him you’ll be just fine without him. And the days he goes to golf, give him a big kiss as he heads out and a warm hug when he gets home. 

These words were not nice. Implicit in Kathy’s challenge was the truth that I was in the wrong, that I was not acting in love. And her willingness to challenge me-that’s the firm core of kindness. 

Nice doesn’t speak truth so boldly. Nice doesn’t call out sinful, selfish attitudes so plainly. Nice doesn’t rebuke and dump much-needed, healing oil on my head.

Centuries ago, Matthew Henry wrote, of this precious oil,

This oil shall be as an excellent oil to a wound, to mollify it and close it up; it shall not break my head, as some reckon it to do, who could as well bear to have their heads broken as to be told of their faults; but, says David, “I am not of that mind; it is my sin that has broken my head, that has broken my bones,” The reproof is an excellent oil, to cure the bruises sin has given me. It shall not break my head, if it may but help to break my heart.

Now you know why. My friend Kathy is not merely nice. She is not just a great listener and a sweet friend. She is something way more courageous and influential, way more strong and loving.

Kathy is kind.

He has shown you O man what is good. And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? 
Micah 6:8