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The Irritation of Focus

| written by Diane Karchner | 1 comments

I entered the One Word 365 challenge for the first time in 2014 with mixed feelings of commitment. I started with low expectations and a high dose of doubt, figuring my meager commitment would wane as it usually does.

Not a good place to start, but I forged forward.

The word I chose – Kindness. A Christian-y, wholesome word. Who couldn’t use a little dose of kindness?

Seemed like it would be worthy of a few meaningful posts through the year, and some self-chastising about my nastiness.

I think my mistake – or my genius – was in taking on an idea that my spirit knew needed a change. I looked and acted like a kind person, but underneath black yuckiness lurked. I just didn’t easily think kindly about people. Kindness just wasn’t me.

Focus changed that.

The word – the idea of Kindness – got in my crawl. Like a pebble in my shoe, it irritated me. A lot. 

It became the kind of irritation that can’t be ignored. So I addressed the irritation head-on the only way I knew how. I focused on it.

I quickly learned that focus can change perspective, one way or the other. If you let it.

I learned that kindness is a way of life not just a way of doing things. It is not just some superficial ‘randomness’ that inspires me to pay for the guy’s coffee behind me at the drive-up window at Starbucks.

Kindness is not a whim. It’s a way of life. 

‘Do nothing of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others before yourself.’ (Phil. 2.4)

Do I care enough to see every person’s needs as being as important as my own? Important enough to meet others’ needs before I even think of my own?

I read recently that agape love, the Greek word often used in the Bible, can be defined as ‘wanting the best for others.’  This kind of love certainly fits well with kindness. Real love is wrapped in all kinds of kindness. 

It’s the kind of love that Jesus showed the adulteress about to be stoned, the lonely lepers, and the weary bleeding woman. The best for them was to be protected and healed, no matter if they believed in him or not. Their needs first. What was best for each of them. First. Period.

I thought this focus would drive me to DO more. More random acts of kindness. More visible results. Instead something totally different happened. This focus had driven me to BE more. To ACT more kindly comes out of being a kinder person. Inside first.

It’s weird that focus on a word can bring about such a change.

As a Christian, I am certain that God was, and is, all over this needed change my life. I know that when I prayed about the times that I lost my kindness focus that he moved in my spirit not only to help me forgive myself, but to turn the yuck into beauty.

Kindness still isn’t natural to me. Even after a year of focus, kindness still comes in spurts – longer ones than before, but still spurty. I am not sure how long it will take – maybe a lifetime – for kindness to become a natural part of me, an outflow of who I am.

But I know that I am different already.

I think of kindness more often than I ever did. 

Socrates said, ‘the secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.’

That works for me. Not focusing on how unkind I was, rather focusing on kindness. 

Even today, a year after that first staggering step into focus, Kindness still infects me.

And I am all the better for this infection.

Has the focus on something ever infected you in ways that were unexpected? 

Diane Karchner enjoys helping people to live out their faith in practical ways. She is a published author, blogger and life coach, and has a passion to help those living in the slums of Nairobi. She writes on her personal blog and on her non-profit connection blog. She also contributes on Medium.com, GraceandSuch.com, TheHighCalling and Five Minute Friday.