Instead, be kind to each other, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. Ephesian 4:32
From the 1828 edition of American Dictionary of the English Langue by Noah Webster.
- Disposed to do good to others, and to make them happy by granting their requests, supplying their wants or assisting them in distress; having tenderness or goodness of nature; benevolent; benignant.
God is kind to the unthankful, and to the evil. Luke 6:35.
Be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted. Ephesians 4:32.
- Proceeding from tenderness or goodness of heart; benevolent; as a kind act; a kind return of favors.
What it takes to be kind:
Kindness comes easily to me, yet I still struggle to exhibit this characteristic in my life. Why? Because showing kindness means making one’s self vulnerable to criticism and/or rejection. Allow me to explain. Two things you need to know about me before we explore this topic any further. One, I am an introvert. In class, as a child, I never raised my hand. “Who cares if I know the answer? Once everyone stares at me, I’ll forget it.” (Can any of you relate?) The second thing you ought to know is, I smile a lot. When I was a little girl my dad called me Smiley KyLee. I love to smile. If you smile at me, you better believe I’ll show you a big cheese in return. But, when it comes to offering the first smile, that is not so easy. What if the person in front of me doesn’t smile back? What if they think I’m weird? What if there’s something in my teeth? You get my drift. Showing kindness is risky business. Kindness—true kindness of the heart which is more than mere politeness—is founded in selflessness because it means considering another person above yourself.
How to be kind:
“If you haven’t any charity in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble.”
It’s a heart thing. I do not personally care for that cliché, yet in this instance it is applicable. This selfless attribute comes from the core of a person, their heart, and reflects the good in them. Acts of kindness reach into the depths of an individual to unlock bitterness, anger, and selfishness. But, how do we be kind when we do not feel an inkling of compassion toward someone or we are simply too tired to put in the effort? Behaving as you want to feel, in this instance, is completely necessary. Romans 3:4 says, “Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?” (NLT). God has shown kindness to us, and we should follow his example, even when we do not feel like it.
Why be kind?
Kindness counters racism, bridges generational divides, and offers the opportunity to build new relationships.
Since moving to the South I have become aware of racial differences I had previously been ignorant of. Here the cultural lines are drawn, and we all know what is “appropriate”. Politeness is expected, but be ready for the cold shoulder from an individual on either side of the spectrum. It’s racism on a civilized level, and oh how I despise it. I am speaking in a general sense of course; the expectant cold-shoulder is not always the case. Community events and also churches bring families together, and in doing so provides a commonality between those of differing nationalities. I’ve tried to counter the awkwardness of this socio-cultural attitude by being the first to smile and begin a conversation. Sometimes I receive coldness, but often my smiles are returned. Strangely enough, I’ve gained much on being the first to smile. My attempt to counter racism has enabled me to overcome anxieties I’ve always struggled with when it comes to interacting with any strangers. Now I try to smile and interact with everyone, to give them a nudge that says, it’s ok to smile back and be yourself.
Generation to generation, the world changes. Technologies advance, medical breakthroughs extend the fields of medicine, and growth in transportation enables people to travel at a greater rate and speed than ever before. Cultures change, as new ideologies emerge and some old resurface. What grandma considers inappropriate seems normal to the average teenager, and what mom says is bad parenting contradicts what the specialists have concluded from the most recent studies on child development. In the midst of contradicting ideologies, clashing personalities, and social differences, how do we bridge the generational divides? You guessed it, kindness. When your granddaughter behaves or dresses in a way that would have earned her a spanking in your day and age, how can you reach her? Kindness. Showing we care not only enables others to better hear us, it helps to nurture trust. Be kind, and consider what the person in front of you is saying. Sure, grandma might not be all-right, but that doesn’t mean she is all-wrong either. Will you miss a good piece of advice and the opportunity to share the learning process with another because your lack of kindness has made you prideful? I hope not. Reach out in kindness, past the ideas old and new, and connect with others.
A soft answer turns away wrath. We’ve heard that one since childhood, and it is true. It is also not easily exercised. When someone cuts us off in traffic, a soft answer isn’t always readily available. Your horn works just fine though, and accompanied by some sign language, should get the point across to the other driver. Oh, you can laugh, but how funny is it–anger? Our culture is telling us we have the right to be angry, we have the right to say and feel and think as we do. But, do we really? Who has the right to pass judgement? Who is righteous? Who has the right to withhold forgiveness? Only One. The same One who also offers forgiveness to all. Kindness is selfless, and goes hand in hand with courage and humility; therefore, pride, spite, selfishness, and bitterness are the opposite of kindness. It is the beginning of growth toward being a better person and overcoming the mean hurts that build bitterness and spitefulness.
“A good character is the best tombstone. Those who loved you and were helped by you will remember you when forget-me-nots have withered. Carve your name on hearts, not on marble.” ~ Charles H. Spurgeon
We can offer others the security to be kind themselves by risking your feelings and giving the first smile. Make conversation with the quiet mom in your kindergarten’s class, and make sure to say hello to the receptionist in your office building. When someone cuts you off, brake and honk if you need too, but let them go with a prayer for safety and not the anger which will root bitterness in your heart. Be kind because the world is brighter when you smile and because chances are, your heart will be brighter when you give and forgive. We may not have much of a say in the fate of our country or the fate of the world, but we have a say in the way we affect others. I like what Adam Lindsay Gordon had to say about life. “Life is mostly froth and bubble, Two things stand like stone, Kindness in another’s trouble, Courage in your own.”