The answer seems obvious. Everyone likes getting gifts. And no-one likes being treated badly.
Given the choice between encouragement or criticism, we’d all opt for encouragement. It would be crazy not to.
So why is it that kindness can be the thing that breaks us?
It makes us weep. More than onions or bad news.
Devastating, undeserved kindness. The sort that I’m struggling to process right now.
For years I’ve beaten myself up. I’ve told myself I’m nothing: useless, ugly, fat. I’ve thirsted for compliments – but when I got them they meant nothing. I despised them, because it was all a show. A magician’s cape, disguising what I knew to be cheap parlour tricks.
When people said nice things about me I assumed they’d fallen for the masks. The performance. The effort and the gifts. ‘Thanks’ I’d say, ‘thanks’. But privately: If only you knew.
I knew the Real Me: I hated her – but I worshipped her too. She was different. Uniquely ugly. Uniquely messed-up. And, in a twisted way, she was special too.
But then, I met Jesus. And reflected in His eyes, I saw someone else. Someone sinful – but not beyond the pale.
Someone worth dying for. Someone who’d been given a name, long before she labelled herself.
To me, it was incredible. Like glasses that made everything new. The gospel showed me a world beyond myself. And I started thinking, maybe there were other people who felt like me.
So I wrote it down. A book. Not a shiny one that I was proud of. A raw, bloodied thing, sticky and dark. But the truth too – as much as I could get it.
Even today, wrapped in Christ’s love, it’s hard to accept myself.
The thought that other people might – is overwhelming. Impossible. Painful.
But so far, I’ve known incredible, devastating kindness. From church family, friends and total strangers. About me and about the book.
It makes me feel sick and sad and bruised and soft. And hopeful.
Unlike my self-hatred, I can’t control it. I don’t deserve it. I can’t ignore it and I can’t explain it.
It’s grace. And it’s tearing me apart.