When you think about the word kindness, what comes to mind?
During our recent trip to Rhode Island (are you sick of hearing about it yet?), our family went to the town beach. Although the day had been warm, the ocean water was characteristically cold.
We kicked off our shoes and walked in the shallows. Only Lauren, the three-year-old, got significantly wet.
As the sun began to set, the wind picked up, sending a chilly breeze across the water.
“I’m cold,” Lauren whimpered, clasping her arms around herself and shivering uncontrollably. Her eyes drooped and so did her smile.
Uncle Michael, the newest member of our family, hasn’t been an uncle long, but he knew what to do. Grabbing a towel, he wrapped up Lauren like a burrito, scooped her out of the water, and carried her to the car while we gathered our belongings. Lauren tucked her head into his shoulder and wrapped her little arms around his neck, safe and warm in his embrace.
When I think about kindness, this story is a great example. In many ways, it models God’s kindness toward us, his children. Listen to Isaiah’s tender description of his heart toward us:
“He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young” (Isa. 40:11).
And Paul’s description of God’s kindness in Acts 14:17:
“He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy."
Kindness is best characterized as strength tempered with compassion. My son-in-law is a strong man, a naval officer who is trained to fight for and defend our country. His strength, paired with compassion and combined with the love of Jesus, produces a kindness that puts the needs of others, including sandy, shivering little girls, ahead of his own.
As children of God, we have the Holy Spirit living inside us. This means we have access to the gifts he brings with him, namely love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Gal. 5:22-223).
When we yield ourselves to him and allow Jesus’ love to flow through us, the Spirit gives us the power to live out these gifts every day.
I’m convinced that our world needs a whole lot more kindness. But rather than pointing my finger at “those people” who need to practice this virtue, I need to begin with myself.
Scripture gives me several ways to practice kindness:
1. By being quick to forgive. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Eph. 4:32).
2. By giving up my right to “payback.” “Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else,” (1 Thes. 5:15).
3. By resisting quarreling. “And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone,” (2 Tim. 2:24).
These are the biggies, but kindness has a thousand faces. It’s as simple as doing a chore for your spouse, helping a coworker without being asked, or hugging someone who’s having a bad day. Listening patiently, speaking softly, and going the extra mile are kind gestures that can change the course of someone’s day.
We love to be the recipients of kindness, but we often forget to give it away.
Like the other fruit of the Spirit, I want to be characterized by kindness. Until it comes (super)naturally, my goal is this:
Every day for 30 days, I purpose to:
1. Think one kind thought (because every action finds its genesis in our minds).
2. Speak one kind word (because words have power).
3. Do one kind deed (because I want to be a doer of the Word, not just a hearer only).
If kindness doesn’t come naturally to you either, or if you want to grow in this fruit of the Spirit, I invite you to join me in this 30-Day Kindness Adventure.
“Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity,” (Col. 3:12-14).
Our world needs more kindness. May it begin with me.