I have been lecturing (yes, that is the operative word) my children on how they treat other people and about being kind to others. Noticing that if I don’t explain to them exactly what behavior is appropriate kindness and what not, they will not know. But it has made me look up what kindness actually means and review my own ‘kind’ behavior.
Kindness is caring about others around you: wanting the best for them. It depicts people who are gentle, mild-mannered, benevolent, compassionate, considerate, sympathetic, humane. It is a word typically applied to the inter-human relationships conveying the idea of being adaptable to others and their needs.
But notice the opposite of Kindness is self-centeredness: being self focused, self-aware, self orientated, self-serving, where our primary focus and concern is self wants and needs.
But on a more subtle level, the following is not kindness either. It is not politeness to others with the motivation of promoting our self interests. It is not generosity to others because there will be some benefit to us later and it “pays” to be kind. It is not superficial good behavior for the sake of good behavior and reputation. It is not pretending to care for someone while hiding your anger or contempt. It is not being pleasant while hiding your frustration. It is not keeping people happy because you feel happier when everyone is happy.
It is also not being kind to people who you think ‘deserve your kindness’ (the sick, the poor, the vulnerable, or those who align with your personal ideals and beliefs.) Choosing to be kind because “they deserve it”, shows up our own bias, prejudice and judgement and our kindness is conditional on the person “qualifying” in some way.
We are kind to people, not because they deserve it, we do it because they don’t deserve it. If they deserved it – it would not be kindness!
This kindness is more like God’s kindness shown to us, namely undeserved. More often, God’s kindness is translated as grace and mercy: mercy because we don’t get what we deserve and grace because we receive more than we deserve.
Titus 3:4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us , not because of righteous thing we had done, but because of his mercy.
Eph 2:7-9 …in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.
We are kind, because God was kind to us and He desires to see this characteristic demonstrated in us as fruit in our lives. (Gal 5:22-23) It is a relationship building skill which we are told to consciously “put-on” in Col 3:12.
God himself rewards kindness, we reap what we sow. Take the story of Ruth, who because of her desire for more of God, expressed kindness to Naomi when Naomi did not deserve it. Boaz then, observing her kindness to his family member, leaves handfuls for her to pickup. God rewards kindness with “handfuls” for us. The success of the concept “Pay it Forward” is precisely because we understand that kindness, generates kindness.
Some thoughts on Kindness that we need to understand and communicate:
- Be sensitive to others and their needs. “Each of you should look not only to your own needs or interests, but also to the interests and needs of others.” Phil 2:4
- Building people up rather than tearing them down. Watch what you say. “Kind words bring life, but cruel words crush your spirit.” (Prov 15:4) “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may how to answer everyone.” (Col 4:6)
- Be Sympathetic, enter into their pain and grieve with them. Just being present is an expression of kindness. Rom 12:15: “When others are happy, be happy with them. When others are sad, share their sorrow.”
- Be Straightforward, be candid, be frank. Prov 27:6: “Wounds from a friend are better than kisses from an enemy.” Sometimes kindness is speaking the truth in love.
- Be Spontaneous, do not wait to show kindness, kindness is not good intentions. Gal 6:10: “As we have opportunity let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers”.
- Be hospitable: Rom 12:13 tells us “Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” Christian hospitality differs from social entertaining. Entertaining focuses on the host, the home must be spotless, the food must be well prepared and abundant, the host must appear relaxed and good–natured. Hospitality, by contrast, focuses on the guests. Their needs, whether for a place to stay, nourishing food, a listening ear, our acceptance, they are the primary concern.
Kindness is a relationship attitude to be developed, to purposely “put-on” until it becomes second nature. A challenge wouldn’t you say.
Lord, help me to put on kindness as an attitude of my life. With the help of the Holy Spirit, make me sensitive to situations that require kindness from me. Help me to never look for those that deserve kindness, but instead, look for those who don’t deserve kindness, just like I don’t deserve kindness from you Lord. Make my heart grateful for what I have and be generous to others.
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