Yesterday, November 13, was World Kindness Day. And after 9.00 p.m., when I hadn’t yet finished writing this blog post, I decided that the greatest act of kindness and self-care for myself was to go to bed!
Today, like most days, I’m up at 4.00 a.m. My body has decided that this new schedule works better!
I’m adapting to not staying up till 11.00 p.m., burning the candle at both ends – learning that kindness starts not with others, but showing compassion to myself. Especially since me tired and cranky, lacking in sleep, is not putting my best foot forward to be kind to others!
Kindness is a habit that starts with me being fully rested – at least to the extent that it is available to me!
I am loving the early mornings.
The stillness and quiet.
Being awake before the birds even start their morning songs! Hearing that first chirp of bird song, and then others waking and joining in.
Being still and knowing that I AM is within me, all around me, and having the opportunity to ask how I can best express love in the world today.
Why does kindness matter?
Find me a Christian who is not kind – and I will challenge them to their face that they are not a true Christian. At the very least, they are failing to be renewed by the transforming of their mind!
Anyone who does not love does not know I AM, because I AM is love.1 John 4:8
End of story.
And from 1 Corinthians 13, we know that Love is Kind.
I accept that there are more verses in the Bible that speak to the kindness of God than the kindness of man.
Kindness is forgiving
Nonetheless, the verses that speak about our challenge to be kind are crystal clear that kindness goes hand-in-hand with forgiveness. Your measurement of commitment to being Christ to others is whether you accept forgiveness and grant forgiveness to others.
… be kind and merciful, and forgive others, just as God forgave you…Ephesians 4:32
If you want to understand better this idea of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, get very clear about the role that kindness, mercy and forgiveness play in your daily habits.
Consider how well you have mastered holding firm to kindness as a way of being.
Don’t mistake kindness for niceness
In Proverbs we find:
Do not let kindness and truth leave you. Tie them around your neck. Write them upon your heart.Proverbs 3:3 (NLV)
So, when we speak truth, it must be with kindness. And in order to be kind, we need to hold onto truth. Anything less is inauthentic. Is there any real kindness without truth?
We are told to speak the truth with love, with compassion and empathy. And that seems to be harder in our culture as we have lost the ability to have difficult conversations. We’ve learnt not to talk about politics or religion at the dinner table, but now that’s extended to we simply don’t talk about them. Then we wonder why society has lost the ability to speak about controversies with respect and kindness.
But, by the same token, if we are busy being nice, we might leave out the truth. Because that’s nicer. But it ignores the sense of betrayal that the other person gets when they find out the truth. It’s not always possible to simply be agreeable and not ruffle any feathers.
Living as a people-pleaser – always being nice – is exhausting. When the resentment starts – the niceness ends.
It’s much better to choose kindness with truth – which may be somewhat uncomfortable as you navigate learning how to be kind while being authentic, but the long-term benefits far outweigh the risks. Practising kindness includes being kind to yourself. It’s not just good deeds and being nice to others.
Kindness stands hand-in-hand with justice
The same way that kindness requires truth, it also requires justice. It doesn’t have to be a harsh and unforgiving justice, but it does require that injustice be stopped in its tracks.
Practising kindness may be as simple as standing up for someone in your community or school against bullying, or making a stand with part of your community for their right to be heard and given a fair audience.
He has told you, O man, what is good—Micah 6:8 (MEV)
and what does the Lord require of you,
but to do justice and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
Perhaps you need to attend that community meeting. Or kindness might just be showing up at your local animal shelter and taking care of the rescues who no one has taken time to share love and justice with.
How can you choose today to show kindness and spread kindness in your community?
What does it look like for you when it goes hand-in-hand with justice?
Kindness is patient, Spirit-filled living
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control …Galatians 4:22-23 (RSV)
Can you practice kindness, thinking of others, without patience? What would it mean that love is kind, if you have no patience or no self-control?
Imagine, if you can, someone impatient, with no self-control, trying to be kind.
Consider, for a moment, kindness without gentleness and goodness.
The fruit of the Spirit all go hand-in-hand: in order to have one, you have to practice all of them. And as much as I would love to say you get baptised in the Spirit and it all magically changes and you become magically transformed into having all of those qualities at all times – my experience in life has been otherwise.
Much like a potter moulds the clay, we are moulded by life.
For better or for worse.
We get to choose whether we allow life’s lessons to teach us how to practice kindness and compassion in every situation – or whether we will simply react. Compassion and kindness are not learnt in a vacuum, but in our every day experiences.
In fact, spiritual growth is not what happens when you are ardently praying and studying. Spiritual growth is what happens when you are facing life’s storms!
- It’s how you respond when someone is trying your patience.
- The way you speak to someone when you haven’t had enough sleep.
- How you choose love rather than anger, when another person is baiting you
Compassion and kindness show up every day as habits, the habitual way that you respond and react to life’s situations.
Practising kindness each day
Kindness is not something to practice and celebrate one day of the year!
It is the every day sweetness of life.
If you can’t be anything else – be kind.