If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat;
if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head,
and the Lord will reward you. – Proverbs 25:21-22
God wants us to be kind to one another – to everyone. Apostle Paul says And be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. (Eph 4:32). We must be kind in our dealings with one another. As we relate with each other, however, we must also remember to balance every action that we take with the word of God.
For a Christian, there is no such thing as being too kind; Jesus showed us that part of following him is learning to graciously forbear even the most trying sorts of people. But extending true love and mercy to a person is not the same thing as for too long enabling that person to behave in ways that either need to stop altogether, or at the very least need to stop happening in your life.
Possible to be too kind? No. Possible to be a patsy? Yes. I am terrible at differentiating the two and I always have been. My mother used to chide me for being too trusting and too kind. I feel like I need to be kind to everyone no matter what the situation, even to my own detriment and even if it goes against God’s Word.
But I am learning kindness and being a pushover aren’t really connected. No one is ever being “kind” to another person by continuing to in any way let that person victimize them or anyone else. It’s a sad truth about this world that there are definitely people in it who, for whatever sad reason, are clearly determined to behave in ways that are detrimental to the psychological or physical well being of those around them. Sometimes, sadly enough, people like that finally just need to be put out of your misery.
Treating someone as if they need to be accountable for their actions isn’t being unkind to that person. Though at first (if ever) they might not register it as such, insisting that a person face and acknowledge the consequences of his or her behavior is actually treating them with respect. If someone’s treating you poorly, and you let them continue to do so, what is the message you are sending that person? “Good job,” you are saying. “I concur with what you’re doing. You should act abominably toward me and everyone around you. Because none of us, including most especially you, has any honor, dignity, or self-respect at all. Of course we don’t! We’re actually all animals! Thank goodness you’re always helping us to remember that!”
See? How is that helpful to anyone? Where is the message of Jesus contained in that? But let’s say you’ve tried your best, that you’ve applied all the faith and grace you have, to bring a truly difficult person to the realization that, for the good of themselves and everyone around them, they need to change. And let’s say that they haven’t, that they’re continuing to abuse your goodwill and best efforts.
Come a time, the only way you can continue doing that person any good is to say to them, in effect (though, come to think of it, do feel free to use these very words), “I give up. I can’t change whatever it is that makes you do what you do. What I can do is stop letting you do what you do in my life. And that’s what I’m doing, right now. That door right there leads into the rest of the world. I want you to go through it, close it firmly behind you, and see if you can’t find yourself somewhere out in the world where doing the stuff you do works for you. Because it definitely doesn’t work for me. It breaks my heart to give up on you, but that’s the choice you have forced me to make. Now you have to live with that, as do I. Bummer. See ya.”
Now something like that might actually straighten a person out! Either way, it’s bound to do the person who says it some good. God wants you to love others, of course. But he also knows that sometimes that means refusing to let another person treat you as if you are anything less than one of his children.