The Power of Kindness
Originally posted October 1, 2008 on Facebook
“Love demands the perfecting of the beloved; that the mere ‘kindness’
which tolerates anything except suffering in its object is,
in that respect, at the opposite pole from Love.” Larry Crabb
Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be
kind to each other and to everyone else. (1 Thessalonians 5:15)
There is something missing in our world today. I used to think I was just getting older, but the more I watch, the more evident it seems to me. Kindness seems to have become a thing of the past. We give it lip service – “Be kind, Please rewind!” or even the movement for “Random Acts of Kindness,” but when it comes to our individual lives, we seem to have forgotten it. We teach our kids the basics of kindness – “please,” “thank you,” “excuse me,” etc. I’ve also worked hard to teach my boys to hold the door. Frankly, it is my five year old daughter who is most consistent in being the door holder, but that’s another story.
On one particular weekend night, we were leaving a restaurant. I noticed that there was a group of people behind us of about 10-12 people who were also leaving. Instinctively, I held the inside door. At the same time, my five year old boy and three year old girl (at the time) held the outside door without me saying anything. It was one of those moments as a parent where you feel just a little bit proud, but mostly just relieved because you feel like you finally did something right as a parent. Then, I noticed something else. I don’t know why this particular group of people was at the restaurant that night – perhaps a birthday party. They comprised a very diverse group of people from different races, males and females, and ages from probably around 10 to over 80. Out of the entire diverse group of people, not one took a second to thank either my kids or myself. I didn’t expect any gratitude for holding the door – I never do, but I was struck by the universal unwillingness to take just a moment to express any gratitude or offer a kind word.
Let’s review our definition of love from 1 Corinthians 13:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. [1 Corinthians 13:4-8]
“Love is kind.” Of all the characteristics of love described in 1 Corinthians 13, the word “kind” by far has the most agreement between all the different translations of the Bible. Of the 87 translations I reviewed, a full 77 of them translated this portion of the chapter as “kind.” Three more had variations of the word kind or additional emphasis on the word kind (e.g., “is so kind”). Other translations included “cares more for others than for self,” “benign,” “gracious,” “courteous,” “gentle,” and “benevolent.” One last translation went more with a definition of what it is to be kind. The JBP version reads, “looks for a way of being constructive.” This is the essence of kindness. Kindness is the positive and proactive side of patience. Patience waits. Kindness actively seeks out opportunities to do good. Kindness doesn’t just hope and wish for the welfare of the one loved, kindness rolls up its sleeves and does something about it. “Love is kind,” along with “love is patient,” are the two terms in 1 Corinthians 13 which describe the conduct of love. They are not merely characteristics but actions.
God requires us to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). However, truth expressed without kindness is anything but loving. Previously, we’ve studied the idea that love is patient, but patience without kindness is not love. It hardly even qualifies as patience.
Kindness is many things. It is tenderhearted in its attitude. It is lending a helpful hand or a kind word at just the right moment. It is found in the tone of voice or an approving look or a smile. Kindness is active. It looks for ways to help. It searches earnestly for things to do – not always what we think should be done, but what the object of our kindness desires. Love acts in ways that are kind, gracious, useful and beneficial. Kindness demands that love is nice even on those days when it doesn’t feel like it – especially on those days when it doesn’t feel like it! Love is gentle even when it is roughed up. Kindness is compassionate towards others. Indeed, kindness will give anything to others – including our time.
There are also many things that kindness is not. It is not cynical or critical. It is not harsh. It does not snap back when provoked. It does not nag. It is not carrying around a chip on its shoulder. Kindness does not look for faults in others or point out their failures.
What Does the Bible Say
Like patience, the Bible has much to say about kindness. First, and perhaps most importantly, the Bible does not just suggest that we be kind, it commands it. The book of Proverbs says,
Do not withhold good from those who deserve it,
when it is in your power to act. (Proverbs 3:27)
It is not enough to not do things which are unkind. Love demands that we actively seek out kind things to do for other people. The preceding passage does not say, “you should do something nice for someone every once in a while.” Rather, it commands us that we should do good for others any time it is in our power to act. The Bible calls us to a life of exceptional acts of kindness! The importance of kindness is echoed in Proverbs 3:3,
Do not let kindness and truth leave you;
Bind them around your neck,
Write them on the tablet of your heart. [NASB] (Proverbs 3:3)
Kindness and truth are supposed to be “written on the tablet of our hearts.” They should motivate our actions and our thoughts. They should be foundational to our lives and guide our every thought and action. The Bible also provides insight into he results of our kindness.
Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. (Romans 15:2)
Our kindness builds up the people in our lives and make them better people. If you’ve ever wondered how you can impact or effectuate change in another person’s life, try being kind to them and “kill them with kindness.” Pick up a cup of coffee for that lady at work who’s always scowling at you. Bring home flowers for your wife. Take your kids to the park and dote on them for a while. Let the guy who waits until the last second to merge in front of you and give him a smile and wave (use all your fingers when you wave please!). Proverbs tells us that on a very fundamental level, a well spoken kind word can make a person’s day!
An anxious heart weighs a man down,
but a kind word cheers him up. (Proverbs 12:25)
If this is not reason enough to strive for kindness, let us never forget that it is only through the kindness of God that we are saved and sanctified in Christ.
Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance? (Romans 2:4)
In fact, Christ is the personification of God’s kindness.
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. (Ephesians 2:7)
Our salvation itself is a gift of God, and that through the kindness and love that was personified in Christ who came to die on the cross for our sins – not because we deserved it, but out of his loving kindness.
But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7)
As this final verse points out, one earmark of our walk with Christ should be an ever increasing amount of kindness and love in our lives. Peter explains that lacking these characteristics will make us “ineffective and unproductive” in our work for Christ.
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. (2 Peter 1:5-8)
If you ever feel like your spiritual life has become stagnant; you would do well to examine the extent of your kindness towards others. We must never forget that God does not ask us to do things or exhibit characteristics which he himself does not do and exhibit. We love because he first loved us, and we should be kind because of the grace and kindness God had shown us. He demonstrates his grace and kindness to us in so many ways, but first and foremost by sending his son to die on the cross for our sins.
So now that we know what the Bible says about kindness, how do we apply the biblical concept of kindness to our spouses and our kids? It is these relationships which demand kindness the most but where it is often most difficult to display it. I believe God gives us a spouse and kids to test the limits of our patience and kindness so that we will realize that we must rely on him for patience and kindness in our own lives and to show us how to truly love others the way he loves us.
Kindness and Marriage
We should be kind to our spouses? What a novel concept! When you first started dating your spouse, you were no doubt kind to her/him. So, why does that change when we get married? All to often, as we become more and more comfortable and other things compete for our attention and time, we forget or ignore the little kind things we used to do. How sad it is that often times we show more kindness to perfect strangers than for the person whom God chose for us to spend our lives with.
So, what does kindness in our marriages look like? Kindness means showing appreciation for the big and little things. My wife is a wonderful mother and a wonderful cook. Every evening after dinner, I try to tell her how good it was and thank her for making dinner for the kids and me. However, if after expressing my gratitude and appreciation with words, I turn around and leave her with all the dishes and the kids while I run off to watch the game, I am being anything but kind. My wonderful wife also spends hours a day sometimes transporting our kids from one place to another. Although I appreciate what a wonderful mother she is, I realize that I don’t say so enough. A kind thought is nice, but if it is not expressed is does not have an object, and kindness without an object is dead. Put another way,
Better is open rebuke Than love that is concealed. (Proverbs 27:5).
So, kindness means acknowledging the little things that we appreciate and making a point to express that appreciation both in words and actions. It also means being sensitive to each others’ needs. Love is not selfish and it puts the needs of the object of that love ahead of our own needs. Since, “Love is kind,” kindness must do the same thing. In short, it means endeavoring to meet our spouse’s needs, especially when it is the last thing in the world that we feel like doing. It means watching the kids after a hard day’s work when you are completely drained because your wife has been dealing with them all day. It means allowing your husband to process his emotions rather than forcing him into a discussion he isn’t ready for. It means not taking your spouse for granted and expecting them to do something just because they always have. It means accepting your spouse the way they are rather than trying to transform them into your image for them. And, it means expressing your love in a manner your spouse understands rather than just assuming that they know that you love them and leaving it at that.
Better a dry crust with peace and quiet
than a house full of feasting, with strife. (Proverbs 17:1)
By the way guys, I wouldn’t suggest using this verse on your next anniversary card, but the truth is, kindness does lead to peace.
Kindness and kids
Last week, we had as look at the idea of patience and our kids, and kindness with our kids goes hand-in-hand with patience. It is difficult, if not impossible, to be actively kind with our kids when can’t even manage to be patient with them. So, how does kindness towards our kids show itself? First, and foremost, we are kind to our kids by serving them. We should seek opportunities to serve our kids – not out of a sense of obligation, but out of love. God has made us stewards over our kids here in this life, and they should be our ministry of first importance. One of the ways we minister to them (there are many) is to have and demonstrate the same kind of servant’s hearts with them as our Lord Jesus Christ has for all of us. The Lord commands us to serve one another, and he does not exclude kids from that command (I’ve looked – trust me!).
Kids learn from what they see, and our kids should see us modeling kindness both to them and to other people. Holding doors, serving the poor, biting our tongue and much more demonstrate kindness to our kids better than any lecture ever could. We do not show our kids kindness through yelling, harsh tones, biting sarcasm or punishment dished out in anger.
So, does kindness mean we should give in and give our kids everything they want? …let them get away with anything? Of course it doesn’t – far from it! The fact of the matter is that that kind of parenting (lazy parenting) is generally the least kind thing we could ever do for our kids. The Bible is clear that kids need correction, guidance and discipline. However, in administering these correctives, we should always remember that the Bible calls us to be a servant to all and that kindness (even in discipline) is much more likely than harshness to inspire good in our kids.
One way which we are often tempted to be “patient” with our kids is to simply ignore them. I have three brothers, so as the father of four boys, my Dad had perfected the art of tuning us out. As the father of four kids myself, I seem to have inherited that ability, and I’ve become quite adept at it myself. It doesn’t hurt that I am deaf in one ear. I have 50% less that I need to tune out.
Anyhow, while there are times as a parent when it is prudent to just let things go, a pattern of tuning our kids out rather than dealing with the issues at hand is anything but kind. Kindness demands action – not passive ignoring. Kindness and active love will serve to bring out the best in our kids rather than the worst.
Many times it is just hard to be kind to our kids. Maybe we lose sight of kindness because of the authority we are called to exercise over them. Maybe it is the stress which goes along with being a parent. Maybe it has to do with having to repeat yourself over and over and over and over again. Whatever it is, love demands kindness even in the face of persistent ingratitude – perhaps even more so in the face of persistent ingratitude. We love our kids through kindness, and we teach our kids how to love others by being kind to others.