“I choose kindness . . . I will be kind to the poor, for they are alone. Kind to the rich, for they are afraid. And kind to the unkind, for such is how God has treated me.” (Max Lucado)
I am a relatively simple woman. I am not a great theologian, nor am I an impressive and profound Christian apologist. I love the Lord with all my heart, I pray, and I read my Bible, but there is still so much I have yet to learn. I’m definitely a work in progress in so many ways.
There is, however, one lesson I’ve learned over and over again in my 57-plus years of life here on earth. It’s a very important but simple one – only two short words – still, it seems to be a hard lesson for some folks to learn. To be fair, it’s one of which we all need to be reminded, no matter how good or holy or Christ-like we think we are. The lesson is this –
That doesn’t sound like such a difficult concept to comprehend, does it? Yet, there are those who associate being kind with being weak, namby-pamby, and ineffective; those who believe there is no place for kindness on their climb up the corporate ladder or in their ambition to get ahead at all costs, and as quickly as possible.
They are convinced there is no place for kindness in their Darwinian “survival of the fittest” game.
Most people really enjoy receiving kindness from others, but some don’t always think to give it back, or to demonstrate it first. They’re in too much of a hurry, too caught up with their own agendas, too focused on their own lives to care much about the lives of others, especially perfect strangers.
So what, exactly, does it mean to be kind? Merriam Webster Dictionary defines it this way:
“Having or showing a gentle nature and a desire to help others; wanting and liking to do good things and to bring happiness to others.”
That sure sounds like something to which we would all aspire.
There are so many ways to be kind – thousands and thousands of them! Kindness may be as simple as smiling at a stranger; holding the door open for the next person; allowing a car to go ahead of you in traffic (without using hand gestures!)
It might be sincerely complimenting another on some aspect of their being or dress; stopping a bully, whether in the school yard or the workplace; giving up your seat to someone with a physical limitation, the elderly, the pregnant, the exhausted.
It may entail being respectful and patient with the waiter or waitress or salesperson who is there to take care of your needs; buying a meal for a homeless person; picking up the tab for the person behind you in the drive-through; performing kind deeds for those who have no way of giving back.
The list goes on and on.
Being kind doesn’t necessarily mean doing great, magnificent acts of philanthropy. The small, daily acts of kindness sometimes matter more than we realize to those who are on the receiving end. I know from personal experience that when I’m going through a painful time, when I’m feeling down and depressed, a smile from a stranger can mean the world, and may even bring tears of gratitude that someone cared enough to make the gesture.
During a very dark time in my life, a time when I was questioning my reason to even be here, a complete stranger smiled and gave me a compliment, chatted with me as we waited in the same line, touched my arm as we spoke, and I suddenly felt like someone cared. I felt like I mattered, even a little bit, that I still had something left to give. That stranger never knew how much she touched my heart and my life by her simple act of kindness.
She was “God with skin on” for me that day.
Proverbs 12:25, NKJV –
Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.
I truly believe that kindness transforms even the plainest person into a beautiful one.
I kept one of my favorite quotes on my desk at work back in the days when I was still a corporate cube-dweller. It stayed with me for years, and I now have a copy on my desk here at home. I try hard to live out the words. The quote is this:
“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” (Leo Buscaglia)
Such small acts have definitely turned my own life around.
There are thousands of quotes about kindness from individuals from every walk of life – playwrights, actors, authors, comic strip developers, philosophers, saints and clergy of all denominations and religions, to name just a few. Here are some that really speak to my heart:
“Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.” (Scott Adams)
“Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” (Mother Teresa)
“No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.” (Aesop)
“Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” (Mark Twain)
“The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.” (Oscar Wilde)
“When you are kind to others, it not only changes you, it changes the world.” (Rabbi Harold Kushner)
The most important reason to pursue kindness as a way of life, of course, is that, as Christians, we are called to be God’s hands, feet and mouthpiece here on earth – to demonstrate to others as much as possible the same kindness, compassion, grace and mercy that He shows to us.
Isaiah 54:10, NKJV –
“For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has mercy on you.
Ephesians 4:32, NKJV –
And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.
Kindness is one of the fruits of the Spirit, as evidenced in Galatians. If we are seeking to live as Christ would have us live, kindness should be manifest in our lives.
Galatians 5:22, NKJV –
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.
There are many examples and Scripture verses regarding kindness scattered throughout the Bible, but the one story that almost everyone knows is found in Luke 10:30-37, better known as the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
As a man, likely Jewish, was lying robbed, beaten, stripped of clothing, and close to death on the side of the road, he was passed by twice from those who overlooked him, considered him beneath their dignity and social status, and who had no compassion or kindness or mercy on his plight. However, when the Samaritan saw him, he was filled with kindness, and cared for him.
Luke 10:33, NKJV –
But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion.
This is significant because, for the most part, Samaritans and Jews hated one another. Jesus used this parable as an object lesson to show how the Samaritan acted with the same kindness He would have us demonstrate to others, including those we may dislike or even despise.
We are all connected, even when our “neighbor” is someone who looks, acts, or thinks very differently from ourselves.
“We are never more like Jesus than when we are choked with compassion for others.” (Anonymous)
Matthew 7:12, NKJV –
Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them . . .
“The worldly man treats certain people kindly because he ‘likes’ them: the Christian, trying to treat everyone kindly, finds himself liking more and more people as he goes on – including people he could not even have imagined himself.” (C. S. Lewis)
Kindness is also demonstrated verbally, but I think all too often people forget the power their words contain. Words can uplift and heal, or wound and destroy. As Christians, we are called to watch our words, to think before we speak harshly or critically, and to speak with love and kindness to one another, especially to those who share our faith.
Galatians 6:10, NKJV –
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.
One of the reasons I felt particularly compelled to write about kindness today is that, over the last four months, I have received three private messages from Christians who are my Facebook friends. As I have stated before, one took me to task for being Catholic instead of Christian (even though Catholics are Christians), and one had issues regarding my friendship with a transgender person. A new message I received last week chastised me for publicly asking for help when I needed it; this person encouraged me to “pull myself up by my bootstraps.”
I have forgiven these individuals and moved on, but their words sure hurt at the time – they were not written with kindness, but instead were judgmental and harsh. I believe they likely had good intentions, but the words were particularly painful because they came from other Christians, those who have been on the receiving end of God’s abundant grace, mercy, kindness and compassion.
Colossians 3:12, NKJV –
Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering . . .
1 Corinthians 13:4, NKJV –
Love suffers long and is kind . . .
None of us are perfect, and I certainly am not! I know that I, too, have been unkind more times than I care to remember, often inadvertently, but sometimes, by my word choices and tone of voice, quite deliberately. Unkindness not only diminishes others, but it diminishes our own lives, especially our spiritual lives, and our relationship with God.
My prayer is that I will constantly seek to find opportunities to show kindness to others, to be a reflection of the kindness, goodness and love that our Heavenly Father has shown to me. I pray that I will act without selfishness or expectation of reward, and that I will be on the lookout for the many occasions throughout every day in which a kind word or deed might make a difference.
May I always be grateful for the abundant and continuing kindness the Lord shows to me, and praise His Holy Name!
Psalm 63:3, NKVJ –
Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, My lips shall praise You.