Thursday 2 September 2021

The Influence of a Tender Heart

Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing.

—1 Peter 3:8-9

This summer I have been watching a show called Ted Lasso, which begins with an unlikely premise in which the titular character, played by Jason Sudeikis, is an American football coach who knows next to nothing about soccer and yet is hired to coach a professional British soccer team. Not only does Ted find himself up against a steep learning curve, but he soon discovers that he has entered a completely toxic environment, a team in deep disarray that carries from the highest level of ownership down to the lowest level of equipment management. Anger, jealousy, selfishness, and fear provide the prevailing emotional tones.

Fleeing his own personal demons, coach Lasso accepts the job, putting an ocean between himself and his estranged wife and beloved son, only to enter a situation where he must endure, not just the skepticism, but the utter contempt of both the team’s fans and players. He is also faced with an owner who only hired him so that the team would fail, and she might thereby exact revenge on her cheating ex-husband, whose beloved team she acquired in the divorce settlement.

From this premise, I would be happy to simply report that ‘hilarity ensues’, but to my utter amazement the program wastes no time in mounting a profound meditation on the power of kindness to pierce social toxicity and realize the hidden possibility of blessedness in the most broken-down situations. Coach Lasso is simply incapable of repaying evil for evil or abuse for abuse, and with every barb hurled his way he responds with an attempt to bless his assailant. The ripple effect of Coach Lasso’s kindness, even as he himself is obviously enduring intense emotional pain, eventually carries its way through the team, and in this way the show manages to portray the transformative power of kindness without ever becoming cloying or maudlin.

As we look forward to starting a new school year at ICS, I have been thinking about the role kindness plays in the education we provide. We try very concertedly to create a nurturing academic community, with ample opportunity for one-to-one mentoring, and in so doing we strive to allow our students to bring their entire selves into the classroom. We seek to create a hospitable learning environment in which “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18), and where students are encouraged to discover their unique way of participating in God’s transforming work of healing the world. While we may not always meet this lofty goal, it remains the standard against which we judge our efforts. To me, teaching this way is an act of kindness.

Thank you, friends, for the role you play in our efforts to teach with tender hearts, so that we might in turn help our students to form tender hearts within themselves, hearts geared for kindness, hearts that desire to impart God’s rich blessings upon everyone they meet.


Ron Kuipers