We are instructed to be kind to one another and to show the compassion that Jesus showed, but what is kindness? Galatians lists ‘kindness’ as one of the Fruits of the Spirit, and we are reminded throughout the Bible to encourage others, offer ourselves in service, and carry forgiveness in our hearts. It is not a suggestion—we are expected to follow His example and live a compassionate and caring life. Approaching every situation with thoughtfulness and care can add kindness to every day. How can we prioritize kindness in our lives?
Kindness Is Offering Forgiveness
Imagine you are out shopping, and you are bumped by a cart. Your elbow begins to throb, and you turn to the person who ran into you. You have a choice. You can narrow your eyes and mumble something under your breath—or you can choose forgiveness. Likewise, when you are driving during rush hour traffic and someone cuts you off, you can sound your horn in frustration—or make some distance between you and the car ahead of you and brush it off.
The person who bumped you has their mind on a sick family member and they are trying to gather up the ingredients to make a comforting pot of chicken soup. The person on the interstate was up all night with a newborn baby and they are trying to make it in to work even though they are beyond exhausted.
Rather than giving in to nasty remarks or hurtful glares, choose to say a prayer. Ask God to cultivate a heart of gentleness. React kindly. The more you practice forgiveness, the easier it becomes.
Miriam’s story shows many examples of kindness, selflessness, and forgiveness. Miriam was God’s faithful servant for years. She witnessed compassion when the Pharaoh’s daughter took in her baby brother, Moses. Later, Miriam was an integral part of God’s plan to free the slaves from Egypt. Miriam selflessly took up His call and led her people to their escape. He parted the Red Sea for the slaves to escape Egypt and allowed the water to swallow up the Egyptian army that pursued. Afterward, she sang in worship, encouraging her people through her own gratitude for His grace; her song (Exodus 15) is one of the oldest recorded in the Scriptures.
But years of wandering the desert after their escape had left her in an ungrateful mood. She was critical of the woman Moses married, and further complained that God was speaking only through Moses. After her harsh judgement, she was stricken with leprosy. Moses showed kindness when he prayed for forgiveness on his sister’s behalf. Of course, God’s forgiveness was granted; Miriam was fully healed and after a week was allowed to rejoin the camp.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Kindness Is Generosity
The term ‘generosity’ evokes examples of kindness from the Biblical story of Ruth. Recently widowed, Ruth felt out of place in Israel as a Moabite. But a wealthy landowner called Boaz extended her the privilege of gleaning grain from his fields so she could feed herself and her mother-in-law, Naomi. Boaz assured Ruth protection while she worked, and without judgement allowed her to eat at his table. After a full day’s work, Ruth returned home to Naomi with plenty of barley to feed them both. Her heart was full of gratitude to Boaz for his care and generosity whereas others may have been unkind or critical.
Generosity can sound unattainable, especially if you are struggling. Generosity does not mean giving what you cannot afford to give. Boaz gave Ruth more than food. He gave her his time, and he reserved his judgement. He reached out with a tender heart, a generous act that required nothing more than thoughtfulness.
“The Lord bless him!” Naomi said to her daughter-in-law. “He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead.” She added, “That man is our close relative; he is one of our guardian-redeemers.” Then Ruth the Moabite said, “He even said to me, ‘Stay with my workers until they finish harvesting all my grain.’”
Kindness Can Be Easy
It may seem difficult to bring kindness into every day—the thought of taking time out of your already packed schedule to provide a thoughtful act for another person may feel overwhelming. You can barely get your kitchen cleaned up before it is time to say prayers and tuck the children into bed, so how can you give your attention to others?
Compassion and gentleness can make a difference in even the most minor of moments. Offering an open heart does not require you to go out of your way. Rather than being short with a child who has been pushing your buttons all day, spend a few extra moments discussing her day. You may find that you can ease her stress about an upcoming test or help work out a problem that has been on her mind. Spending a few moments in thoughtful conversation does not seem like much, but it can make all the difference in her world. See how easy it can be?
What Kindness Is Not
There is no quid pro quo in kindness. Kindness should not be given with the expectation that you will receive something in return. We do not need recognition or a returned favor to show compassion. Jesus did not change His mind about His sacrifice because of the ungrateful—He did it despite them. Through his selfless act, we may experience compassion and kindness like no other.
Kindness is not provided to gain recognition. You would not decide to ignore a call for help just because nobody is there to see a heroic act. Choose to do good deeds when nobody is watching. Even if your act goes unnoticed by others, it still means something to the person on the receiving end. And, as in everything you do, He certainly takes note.
But show me unfailing kindness like the Lord’s kindness as long as I live…
1 Samuel 20:14
Three Strategies To Bring Kindness into Every Day This Year:
- Reflect. Reflect upon the kindness you have experienced recently. How have those experiences helped you? How has God shown you His kindness recently? It is important to remember that your kindness may not look like your neighbor’s; it may even be different from day to day. No one thing defines this most precious quality.
- Pray for guidance. The practice of kindness may seem daunting—where do you begin? God can show you where compassion is most needed in any day. Allow Him to guide you. If you struggle with shrugging off judgement, ask Him how you can improve. His grace is shown to us in so many ways every day; allow Him to guide you and learn from His example of lovingkindness.
- Think ahead. Add some time to your calendar each week for your thoughtful acts, and mark down ideas for those who may need a little extra support that week. Make a note to send a card to someone who may be missing a deceased loved one on the anniversary of their passing, invite someone to your table if they cannot make it home for the holidays, or offer a pre-cooked meal to new parents.
What Kindness Might Look Like in Your Life:
> Making room at the dinner table for a lonely neighbor
> Offering forgiveness rather than showing anger
> Encouraging others in every day
> Responding with patience when your children are having a difficult day
> Purchasing the coffee for the person in line behind you
> Holding back judgement against an individual or situation
When has God provided you with kindness, or shown you His forgiving spirit? We should all strive to be kind, generous, and thoughtful in our interactions every day. God is ready to guide you, as He has led those before us. Your generosity and compassion need not be grand displays. A small gesture, an encouraging word, or a friendly smile can all make a difference. Your small kindnesses can be enough to make tremendous changes in someone’s day.
How will you share kindness in 2023?