It is better to be kind than to be right.
In a world where you can be anything, be kind.
Practice random acts of kindness.
There is no shortage of the admonition to be kind in today’s culture. There are T-shirts, Instagram feeds, and even whole movements dedicated to spreading kindness.
Yet, in apparent contrast, there seems to be an increase in hostility, selfishness, and indifference in our world.
Where is the disconnect between the message of spreading kindness and the motivation to live it out practically?
Too Nice or Kind?
Part of the disconnect begins with our definition of what it means to be kind.
Have you ever accused someone or been accused yourself of being “too nice”? It is not a compliment, is it? When we describe someone as being “too nice” we think of them as weak, dependent, or insecure.
Our society idolizes those who are strong, independent, and go after what they want, which seems to be in direct conflict with being a nice person. Nice people finish last, right?
However, is being nice the same thing as being kind? We have confused the two concepts.
My study and research on this attribute have taught me kindness may be one of the most underrated, overlooked, and ignored attributes in Paul’s list of the fruit of Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
The Greek word for “kind” is chrestos. Part of its meaning is useful, which makes it clear that biblical kindness involves action.
The word derives from a verb meaning “to take into use” and has the basic sense of “excellent,” “serviceable,” or “useful.” When the word was applied to people it meant they were “worthy,” “decent,” “honest.” When a person is all that he is supposed to be—when a human is humane—he is decent, reliable, gentle, and kind. All of this is included in what our Bible calls “kindness.” It is not just a sweet disposition: it is a serving, productive trait as well.
Kenneth L. Boles, The College Press NIV Commentary: Galatians and Ephesians (Joplin, MO: College Press,1993), 151.
The Healing Power of True Kindness
When we display kindness, we seek to rebuild, bring back, and heal a person or a relationship while maintaining its integrity and value. Because kindness puts others and their needs first, it has the potential to restore and heal. This spiritual attribute does not seek recognition, reward, or reciprocity.
Kindness goes beyond duty—it means doing something you don’t have to do, but just choose to do. Kindness goes beyond reward—it means doing something you won’t get paid to do. In fact, real kindness usually costs something.
Christopher J.H. Wright, Cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2017), 84.
Kindness is anything but just being “too nice”!
Kindness does. Kindness cares. Kindness touches. Kindness reacts.
KINDNESS=LOVING PEOPLE MORE THAN THEY DESERVE FOR THEIR BENEFIT AND NOT OURS
A Biblical View of Kindness
The Bible identifies two different directions of kindness:
1) God’s kindness towards us.
2) Human kindness toward other people.
God expresses his kindness and compassion for us in the person of Jesus Christ. Through Jesus, we are made right with God, something we could never achieve on our own. God actively and intentionally reaches out and loves us more than we deserve by sacrificing his only Son to forgive our sins.
But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.
Titus 3:4-5 (NIV)
For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 2:6-7 (NLT)
Do you want to know what genuine kindness looks like? Jesus’s sacrificial death on the cross for our sins is the greatest, most complete picture of kindness.
God saw hurt, brokenness, and despair in the world. Knowing we were unable to save ourselves from pain and suffering, he stepped in and planned to do something! Would we accuse God of being “too nice” for rescuing us? We did not deserve his kindness, but thankfully he did not treat us as we deserved. And why does he lavish us with his kindness? To provide restoration and healing. By loving us unconditionally, God made reconciliation with himself possible through Jesus.
Romans 2:4 tells us what God’s kindness should motivate us to do: “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). We cannot overlook this meaningful connection! When we fully grasp God’s kindness toward us, it cannot help but overflow in our attitudes and actions toward others.
God’s Kindness—->Human Kindness
The Bible is full of stories illustrating how God’s kindness encourages us to reach out to others in kindness. Remember the Prodigal Son (Luke 15) or the Good Samaritan (Luke 10)? Jesus used these stories to teach us about kindness and how to give without expecting anything in return, show mercy despite being poorly treated, and go above and beyond to meet the needs of another person.
From Lip Service to a Lifestyle
If we want to move from a catchphrase on a T-shirt to a commitment to let the healing power of kindness flow through our hearts and souls, we need to be intentional. Kindness plans to do something.
Start with restoring the dignity of just one person within your sphere of influence without expecting anything in return. Here are 10 simple ways to show kindness in practical ways.
- Look people in the eye and call them by name if possible (read nametags!).
- Praise someone for a job well done at work.
- Check on an elderly neighbor.
- Send a note of encouragement to someone you know is going through a hard time.
- Pay for the person behind you in the drive-thru.
- Offer free babysitting for a single mom (or dad) who needs a night out.
- Let someone jump ahead of you in line at the bank or grocery store.
- Give another driver your parking spot.
- Give a bottle of water to a delivery person.
- Leave a copy of a newspaper, magazine, or even a book at your local coffee shop.
Have you ever witnessed how a small act of kindness (whether random or intentional) can completely change a person’s mood or the atmosphere in a room? When you choose to intentionally act with kindness, restoration and renewal are sure to follow.
Through Jesus, God has lavished his kindness on us, and that means we should take being kind seriously. When we stop giving kindness lip service and incorporate it as a lifestyle, we have the power to transform lives. Far from the passivity of being “too nice,” kindness cannot be ignored, contained, or stopped.
“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.
Be the living expression of God’s kindness.
Kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile”
~ Mother Teresa
Some excerpts are taken from Carla Gasser’s newly released illustrated devotional Bible study, The Beauty of an Uncluttered Soul (2021, Bethany House). This devotional study uses the fruit of Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) as a guide to help declutter the soul by allowing God’s Spirit to come in and transform from the inside out.