Cinderella's Mistake

In the beautiful movie Cinderella which recently came out, most people adore this simple quote at the beginning from the mother, which says, "I want to tell you a secret - something that will see you through all the trials life has to offer.  Have courage, and be kind."  At first, I too was enamored by this quote, bedazzled by its "wisdom" and goodness.  My brother pointed out how shallow the movie supposedly was, with one person falling in love with another over physical appearance.  Because I loved the movie, I simply brushed it off, and continued to enjoy the lessons I thought I had learned from the plot.  At the same time, though, I couldn't help but start wondering in the back of my mind if my brother was right.  Furthermore, I soon thereafter finished a profound book by C.S. Lewis called, "The Problem of Pain", which discusses the nature of kindness.  One quote stuck out to me in particular, which declares:

"There is kindness in Love: but Love and kindness are not coterminous, and when kindness... is separated from the other elements of Love, it involves a certain fundamental indifference to its object, and even something like contempt of it.  Kindness consents very readily to the removal of its object — we have all met people whose kindness to animals is constantly leading them to kill animals lest they should suffer.  Kindness, merely as such, cares not whether its object becomes good or bad, provided only that it escapes suffering.  As Scripture points out, it is bastards who are spoiled: the legitimate sons, who are to carry on the family tradition, are punished [Hebrews 12:8].  It is for people whom we care nothing about that we demand happiness on any terms: with our friends, our lovers, our children, we are exacting and would rather see them suffer much than be happy in contemptible and estranging modes.  If God is Love, He is, by definition, something more than mere kindness.  And it appears, from all the records, that though He has often rebuked us and condemned us, He has never regarded us with contempt.  He has paid us the intolerable compliment of loving us, in the deepest, most tragic, most inexorable sense."

Due to the blunt, down-to-earth nature of this quote, I couldn't get it out of my head - especially its relevance to SSA, which I'll weave in at the end.  Over and over again, I pondered about it as it applied to nearly every facet of my life. A few points from this have really hit home for me, aside from all the eloquence and fluff. First, C.S. Lewis states that Love - emphasizing its importance and superseding nature by capitalization - is not coterminous with kindness. The word coterminous doesn't mean synonymous, exactly. It means "having the same extent of scope or duration", which I take to mean "of the same depth and extent of meaning" in this context. It's similar to the word synonymous, but with greater profundity. In other words, this implies that not only do Love and kindness not mean the same thing, but also that Love is deeper and richer than kindness alone is. I've realized this truth. Jesus Christ wasn't just "nice" to people, as we so often hear as the maxim for living today. He put Himself out there, served people, made sacrifices, and showed love in individualized ways according to how people felt love.

Second, when separated from other elements of Love (i.e., what Paul preached about in 1st Corinthians 13 and Mormon in Moroni 7), kindness involves a certain fundamental indifference to its object, and even something like contempt of it. Essentially, C.S. Lewis is speaking of people who are nice to others, but don't really show love to everyone. They love the people who are convenient to love, easy to love, or fun to love, but everyone else gets the regular dose of kindness. Sound familiar? Examples might include the small-talk conversation in church, politeness you give to that certain person you secretly dislike, or the things you do to avoid someone who is (characteristic you don't like/hate).  It's a very convenient way of telling oneself that you're keeping your baptismal covenant and living by your conscience, while really offering a shallow imitation of love. Notably though, our covenants say nothing of kindness; they only speak of love.

Interestingly enough, charity will teach you genuine kindness, since that's one of the many qualities it embodies. However, you cannot become loving by simply being kind. C.S. Lewis also mentions this virtue-detached kindness results in something like contempt for its object, or, who you're showing kindness to in other words. I think what he is speaking of is that grudging, inward groaning feeling you get when you say to yourself, "Oh no, I have to be nice to this person again?" But you think you're covenant-keeping, so you say, "Well, it's what Christ would do..." or something like that, and so you do it. I'm not speaking directly to anyone, by the way.  This is a universal statement applicable to me and everyone else.  What I'm getting at is that Satan is teaching the world to imitate love through kindness, since he is very good at imitations and he understands you can't become loving by the medium of virtue-detached kindness. The recent movie, "Cinderella", comes to mind, even though it's just one example among many.  She made a colossal mistake in making kindness as her god of virtues, because in the end, her kindness ran out and only the fairy-tale prince saved her from dire circumstances. 

Third, and finally, the last one is that kindness consents readily to the removal of its object. After a time of showing virtue-detached kindness, something like contempt sets in, you grow weary of well-doing, and sometimes you'll start finding fault with the individual you're showing kindness to. I've experienced this before, not so much recently, but still, I've experienced it. Kindness when given as a stand-alone virtue, or even a virtue given with few other virtues, still is weak and cannot fulfill the covenant duties given to us by the Savior. If kindness is so important in practice by itself, as the world preaches, then why do the scriptures not mention it very frequently? In all the standard works, if you were to take the statistics of how many times the words "kind", "kindness", and so forth were written and spoken, versus how many times the words, "love", "charity", and such were written and spoken, what do you think the numbers would look like? I can probably name for us exactly where words related to kindness show up in the scriptures, and I'm sure it's less than 10. On the other hand, I cannot number in my head how many times the words "love" and "charity" together have shown up in the word of God. Something about that speaks to me, especially since the scriptures are truth and God Himself speaking to us.  Love is emphasized more than kindness even in other religions as well.  What does that tell us, I wonder?

Regarding SSA and its application here, we frequently interact with other people also experiencing SSA and/or gender dysphoria.  I think what we should ask ourselves is, what standards are we measuring people by, and are they really influenced by the pure love of Christ?  Standards for friends, if they originate from the love of God, do not have the same qualities as expectations.  What's the difference?  Standards are morally based, but expectations are personally based.  Example:  You have a standard you hold your friends to regarding chastity and personal space, i.e., no cuddling alone together due to sexual temptation it creates.  Your friend decides to persuade you to cuddle alone together, and starts to make advances.  You put your foot down, and say no.  That's enforcing a standard, which stems from love.  However, saying your friend should look a certain way, act according to some stereotype, or do something because it serves you personally are not examples of moral standards.  You can sometimes persuade friends to do those things or similar actions, but it won't be through the medium of love.  It'll be through the medium of kindness, such as by telling someone they'd look great if they did _ , or saying someone would be more well-liked if they acted like _ .  Friends acting consistently in kindness will usually give off a sense of indifference about the "connection" you have, if any, they pass kindness off as love because it's somehow "helping" people (making others more popular, beautiful, charismatic, etc), and if you don't want their friendship anymore, they usually don't care much.  If you've seen the musical, "Wicked", think of Glinda.  She's a perfect example of this type of friend.  It also cannot be overstated that some people mix love in after they've made kindness their focus.  Usually these friends can be described as that toxic friend who you're not sure about whether to get rid of or not.  It's confusing to experience love after kindness, because the order is getting mixed up!

This leads perfectly into my final point, which is that if we want to interact positively with people in the SSA community, we must leave expectations out, and only include moral standards.  If you read Paul's discourse on charity, you'll find that kindness is part of love, which is why C.S. Lewis states that there is kindness in love.  Essentially, focus on loving people according to moral standards,  and kindness will flow naturally out of that.  All the drama, judging, unforgiveness, shallowness, etc that exists in the SSA community would vanish if we could learn to love people the way Christ taught, instead of "being nice" to people the way the world currently teaches.  If you look, whether it's in movies like Cinderella or musicals like Wicked or just in general society, the message that Satan wants everybody to believe is that kindness alone can satisfy God, while validating and connecting to the human spirit.  I'm reminded of a quote by a Christian scholar, who once said, "God is easy to please, but hard to satisfy".  It is my belief that when kindness is emphasized as a stand-alone virtue, another insight of C.S. Lewis is fulfilled when he said, "Any virtue, made into a god, becomes demonized and detrimental."  On the outside, things look glittery and beautiful, especially because kind people tend to be more popular than ordinary people.  The honest question though is if they are really well-loved, because there's a difference between being popular and well-loved.  Jesus most likely emphasized love throughout the scriptures and our covenants as Latter-Day Saints not simply for the sake of obedience.  He knew that we connect to and cherish each other when we love, and partially maintain that beautiful relationship when we are kind.

So, don't make the same mistake as Cinderella.  Have courage, and be loving.  That will see you through all the trials life has to offer.   Love you guys!  Until next time...

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