Merriam-Webster defines kindness as the quality or state of being kind; treating people with kindness and respect.
Many of the disciple Paul’s Biblical writings discuss kindness:
- Galatians 5:22 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
- Colossians 3:12 – 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 one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
- 1 Corinthians 13:4 – Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, 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.
Kindness is one of the hugest strengths a person can cultivate.
Throughout his life, my brother has been known as a nice person. But when dad was wasting away from ALS, Joey’s three sisters witnessed a kindness toward and delicate handling of dad’s thin frame that we had not realized was inside Joey. He was gentle and sweet and treated our father always like an adult, never a child, and yet moved and maneuvered his aching body with the care a mother shows her newborn.
We witnessed consideration in every interaction and came to understand the depth of what kindness can mean and the important role it plays in our lives. It may be one of the first times we, as adults, truly understood the word.
It takes very little effort to be mean or petty.
Your wicked little devil inside wants to say or do a thing and you do—blurting out hurt without pausing to consider the ramifications. Rather like a two-year-old learning to share toys for the first time. Don’t they, most often, first want to keep what is theirs to themselves? Demanding that the giants tending them bow to their tiny (but loud) wills? Thankfully, we grow. We learn from others. We become empathetic and learn to be sympathetic. These traits come out of us cloaked in benevolence.
And what being kind does for our own souls is huge.
Have you ever had to run some errands you hate (for me it’s the grocery store—I’d rather roam the aisles of a hardware store any day) and are grumpy about it? But you steel yourself, you enter, and make the conscious choice to seek out opportunities to exhibit goodwill. You help an elderly person reach something from a high shelf, you notice who looks sad and offer them a smile.
Those tiny actions change what’s inside you and you no longer mind being in that spot at that time. You brighten someone’s day by noticing them and the selfish storm cloud you were wearing on your face lessens.
But keep that cloud of glumness over your head as you walk through a market, mall, or a park, and people sense it. They keep their distance and you come home having experienced a shallow, empty, non-connection with others.
Kindness changes everything.
When there is a difficult person in your life with whom you have to interact, do you immediately go on the warpath or do you take a deep breath and say to yourself, I’m going to kill them with kindness? Our parents taught us to approach people in the latter way. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar, was another of their pearls of wisdom in how to deal with unpleasant humans.
Sometimes, that contrary person simply wants to pick a fight with you. Some people love conflict. You approach them with the patience of Job and yet they attack and attack.
The Bible has three instances of turning the other cheek:
- Lamentations 3:30 – Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him, and let him be filled with disgrace.
- Matthew 5:39 – But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.
- Luke 6:29 – If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also.
Some people love harmony.
They rejoice in bringing a cadence of unity to life, easily soothing over hurts and hardships by being loving and kind. Don’t you find yourself pulling these people into your orbit? You spend time with them and daily angst takes a backseat as you enjoy pleasure and joy in their company. Your heart expands, which enables you to share your inner richness with others.
This energy reciprocity is vital to having a rich life full of goodness, of giving and receiving joy—which returns us again to kindness.
Try a little kindness today—go into the world wearing it like a shield that emanates from your soul. Let me know how that works out for you.