Kindness is kind of my thing. I preach it to my kids, employ it online, look for and encourage it in the world, strive to show it in my relationships. But there is one place where my kindness has a long way to go: within me.
Isn’t that cute how we can be all in for a cause, then when it comes right down to it, we’re not really about it as much as we say? I think they call this hypocrisy, don’t they?
At home, where space is shared and habits grate and patience wears thin, kindness can be hard to find. On any given day you may hear me snapping back at my husband, sigh in audible exasperation at my daughter, and raise my voice in a shout against my son. My temper flares and I lash out, and like the flame of a match blown out, it’s over as soon as it begins. But like the smoke of a match, the effects linger; unkind words and behaviors sting, the consequences of my rashness written all over their faces and in their reactions to me for a long time afterwards.
Now, look. I am not a monster. I’m not quite Mommie Dearest, raging against my children over wire hangers. I am not planning my husband’s demise when he tosses his dirty clothes to the hamper and misses. But still. Unkind thoughts often spill out of my mind to my lips, and they would be better left unsaid.
It’s a difficult thing, to keep unkind words inside. I feel impelled to voice my thoughts, say what is on my mind. Being heard is one of my biggest desires. But I need to choose my words more carefully. We all do.
The problem is that sometimes I don’t feel kind. Sometimes I feel like things are stupid and I want to say, “That is stupid.” Or “I don’t care about that.” There’s a magnet on our fridge that says “I just please need you to shut up for one minute.” I love it - it says what I think. But I think that too often – it is unkind. To tell another person to shut up stops her from sharing, tells him that his thoughts are not important, puts my wants above theirs.
And it’s not really what I’m preaching when I say “Be kind” to my kids, nor what I’m after, ultimately. It’s not what Jesus taught me, nor how God wants me to act. So why do I rebel?
Emotions can be hard to handle, especially when they are in response to negative events and actions that go against what we want. When those emotions threaten to spill over into our behavior, we have a choice: we can add to the fire by lashing out and being unkind, or we can snuff the flame by covering it with love and kindness. Kindness as love is so powerful. It can douse a mighty flame of hate and negativity. There’s a reason for the cliché “kill ‘em with kindness.” Kindness works; it disarms. In addition, it transforms our hearts. I can’t tell you how many tears I’ve cried over words I’ve said that have hurt another person. Some things are unintentional, but still. Some things I recall saying cause me to wince – I can’t believe I said that. My heart is being transformed.
Kindness is in short supply in the world and in our own homes sometimes. But we have a choice to let it overflow from each one of us. It’s what Jesus preached and taught; it’s what God wants for us.
I looked up “kindness” in a couple of different Bible translations, and the following are only a few verses about kindness that came up. Clearly, God wants kindness for us:
You gave me life and showed me kindness, and in your providence watched over my spirit. Job 10:12 (NIV)
Your kindness will reward you, but your cruelty will destroy you. Proverbs 11:17 (NLT)
I will tell of the kindnesses of the Lord, the deeds for which he is to be praised, according to all the Lord has done for us— yes, the many good things he has done for Israel, according to his compassion and many kindnesses. Isaiah 63:7 (NIV)
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18 (NIV) – this one didn’t come up under “kindness” – but it’s my favorite, so I had to add it.
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness… Galatians 5:22 (NLT)
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:12 (NIV)