So You Think You’re Kind?

It’s a wonder I ever got married. Actually, what’s more amazing is that I married a wonderful woman who checked every single box I had when I was younger. (As a shameless plug, you should do yourself a favor and check out her blog here.) It’s truly an act of God’s grace that she wanted to marry me, because I’ve been a jerk for half my life.

Some of those who know me are nodding right now.

“Yep. You were. Indubitably.”

I’m still growing and learning how not to be a jerk, but thankfully, when I was in college I mellowed quite a bit. I shed the zeal and intensity, and I softened. Where I used to intellectually beat others into submission, now I just pin them.

That’s not exactly true. I don’t really engage in debates often, unless it’s with my wife and we’re discussing important issues such as how we should vote or whether the toilet lid stays up or gets put down. For those interested, the correct answer is down.

(We also have disagreements about driving in inclement weather. As an aside, I discuss how much I like storms in another post. You should check it out How Not to Be Afraid. For those interested in this topic, my judgment can’t be trusted.)

Why I Don’t Argue

The reason I don’t engage in debates much anymore is that I rarely see the point. Maybe I don’t see the value because the topic doesn’t matter. Or maybe the topic is worthwhile but I don’t believe the other person has the will to change his or her mind regardless of the soundness of my logic.

Even greater than my pragmatic approach though, is this gnawing passion for my own way, my own opinion. It’s that passion that got in the way so frequently when I was younger. When I interacted with others I served my zeal instead of them. I fanned the flames of my own opinions rather than encouraging others to grow their own.

As I mellowed, I realized that I cared less about my own opinions and my rightness, and I cared more for others. Sure, I’m still passionate. It’s how I’m wired. But I’ve never won someone over to my way of thinking by browbeating them with sound logic and facts. In every instance of convincing and converting someone, it has been through kindness.

People Don’t Follow Logic

No matter how logical we think we are, we are slaves to our hearts. People make decisions not based on reason. People decide based on their wills which are informed by experience. If I have never experienced snow, it doesn’t matter how many pictures I see or stories I hear. I must be in it to believe it.

So kindness is the means by which we reason with another person’s heart. It is the language of God. Kindness sees a person for who they are and what they need, and it translates our thoughts and experiences into something the other person can understand for their own benefit. It is a universal language independent of nationality, social status, and gender. It has no consideration for creed, color, or culture. Kindness is heat to melt the hardest hearts and coolness to calm the most inflamed passions.

Kindness is heat to melt the hardest hearts and coolness to calm the most inflamed passions. #twelve2nds Click To Tweet

Lessons from Dad

As a father I am routinely reminding my kids to be kind to one another. My wife and I reframe comments they make to ensure they see there is a kind way to say things. Even when they’re upset (or especially when they are) we want to show them their words are powerful.

If you’re a parent, you know what I’m talking about. It is a constant battle to demonstrate kindness. Ironically, it makes me impatient and frustrated that they don’t learn the lesson. Then in my impatience and frustration I try to force them to be kind. How lost am I?

I’ve been doing a series on the Fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22-23. I wanted to outline how I model and teach these things to my kids. You can read the series for yourself (and if you haven’t done so, subscribe to my blog). But being a dad is a journey with lots of detours (probably for potty breaks) and occasionally wrong turns.

What’s the Meaning of This?

To properly understand why kindness is so important in God’s kingdom, we need to understand the word. The word in Greek is used hundreds of times in various forms throughout the OT and NT. It generally means kindness, but it can also mean serviceable, useful, or good. I think these alternative meanings are really cool.

To truly say you are a “good person” as so many of us do, you need to be kind. But the meaning of good gets a little lost on us as well. Good by what standard? I think goodness here is measured circumstantially. It depends on how useful our behavior is to someone else. Do our words make a difference to another? Do they have a positive effect for change? Does our behavior help another become a better version of themselves?

Beyond the Greek

All of these are incredible thoughts about kindness.

But beyond the Greek, I want to focus on the English word.

When we talk about the word kind what comes to mind? Given the context of this post, you’re probably thinking of how we treat one another. But there is another meaning of kind. It means a thing’s variety or nature.

A person is a kind of mammal.

A Christian is a kind of theist.

A Patriot is a kind of demon.

Kind in both cases comes from an Old English word gecynde which means nature. So kindness is behavior which treats another according to how they were made, according to their nature.

What Do We Believe?

As Christians we believe that all people are made in God’s image. Our nature is a divine thumbprint, pointing us back to a loving Creator.

So to treat someone with kindness is to treat someone as if they are made in the image of God.

To treat someone with kindness is to treat them as if they are made in the image of God. @twelve2nds Click To Tweet

But that’s really difficult. Some people don’t look as though they were made in God’s image. The things they do and say look so different than the righteous image of God. How are we supposed to treat others if their nature is so corrupted?

If only there were a pithy saying for what we are supposed to do unto others.

Jesus Weighs In

Thank heavens Jesus gives us the bumper sticker slogan we’re looking for. In Luke 6, Jesus says the following:

27 “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.

32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35 But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Jesus Ups the Ante

It’s easy to think we’re kind when we treat good people nicely. But Jesus ups the ante. It’s not enough to love those who love us. Even those far from God do that. If we claim to love God, we should demonstrate it in the same way God demonstrates his love for us, by sacrificing our very best and by loving the hateful, serving the spiteful, and blessing the vengeful.

Kindness between people cannot simply be niceness. Niceness is easy. Kindness—treating our enemies as though they were made in God’s image—that is the fruit of a Spirit-filled life.

Let’s Get Practical

You might be asking what some practical steps are to grow in kindness. Here are some things to think about:

  1. Love your enemies—not just in an academic sense, but actually demonstrate love for and to your enemies. Speak kindly to them and about them. Stop retelling the same old stories about how they hurt you and begin to bless them.
  2. Pray for your enemies—it won’t come easy to demonstrate love for people who have hurt you. I’m not advocating unhealthy or dangerous exposure to our enemies, particularly if they shouldn’t be trusted. What we should do is ask God for help in forgiving them and ask God to change them and bless them.
  3. Let God handle the outcome—in many cases you won’t see the returns on your investment. In fact, I wouldn’t count on your enemies changing at all. What does happen is that in the process of praying for our enemies, God changes us.

What do you find the most challenging about being kind to our enemies? What’s the best way to teach this to those under our influence? Please feel free to comment below, and as always, make sure to subscribe to continue getting more great posts like this.

40 thoughts on “So You Think You’re Kind?

  1. It’s easy to love others when they are loveable, but really hard when they are prickly. My humanness wants to do everything but love them and be kind. I’m a work-in-progress girl and as I grow in faith, I believe I’m also growing in kindness and love!

    1. Good thoughts, Julie. I hope that I’m growing still. Being kind to the “prickly” people is really difficult, huh? That’s a good word, “prickly”. I think that’s where most of us need to grow.

    1. Ah! I can’t tell you how often I’ve needed reminding to be kind. It’s usually my wife reminding me 🙂
      Thank God for the love and acceptance of my friends and family who can speak the truth to me with love. That’s true kindness.

  2. Great job Chip. I loved your thoughts on kindness and the importance of using it in every aspect of our life. Jesus set the example and we need to learn to follow.

    1. Thanks, Yvonne. Jesus is the ultimate example of kindness, even to his enemies. Although he didn’t mince words when he called them vipers and white-washed tombs. I’m still wondering how I can insult people and love them as he did.

  3. This is a great reflection on the true nature of kindness rather than the superficial meaning we tend to attribute to it.

    I think one of the most challenging parts of loving an enemy is the subtle fear that if we treat our enemy with fairness and humanity, we may find that we are not as right as we thought we were. It may even cause us to change a treasured perspective. Only God can help us traverse that path correctly, but it’s good to know we can trust Him to do that since true kindness is of Him.

    1. Man! You’re so right! I cherish my opinion a lot, and when I make my opponent human, when I try to love them as Christ commands, my opinions soften. What a danger to my carefully crafted sense of self.

  4. I love that you bring in kindness to the world of debating and arguing our points with one another. I am very similar in that I stay away from debates not for lack of passion, but because I know my heart and my words will not be kind once I get going! There are so many people who love to debate because they love to argue and they love to hear their own voice. And while I love speaking truth, I have to come back to the truth about my own heart.

    1. Yep. That’s me. I know what’s in my heart, and so I try to avoid senseless debates. I used to engage without reservation. Now that I’m more cautious, I feel like I’ve lost a step in my debating abilities. It’s probably worth it in the end to be kinder and less sharp. I’m glad someone knows the struggle. Thanks for commenting, Emily.

  5. I love this, Chip. Treating others as though they were made in God’s image is the best definition of kindness I have ever heard. The scripture you reference can be a hard one to swallow. Of course, it is necessary to do as a believer. Great post!

    Oh, and your wife’s blog IS great. You’re both great writers and inspire me.

    1. You’re so kind, Nicole. Thanks for saying all that.
      It is really difficult to put this into practice, but that’s why it’s called the Fruit of the Spirit. It’s the Spirit who grows it in us. Otherwise it’d be called the Fruit of God’s People. Unfortunately, the only fruit I know how to grow is sin, death, and destruction. It’s the Spirit of God who grows the good stuff in me. I just have to let God do it.

    1. Thanks, Nancy! I agree. Touching on the Greek is so helpful to understand what the writers meant. It’s not perfect, but since I’m a nerd it helps move me closer to understanding.

  6. Loving and showing kindness is so hard when it is not reciprocated or appreciated. We are called to love those who will not return our actions or words and may even reject us and our efforts. One thing I’ve been trying to teach our kids is that we are called to be kind regardless of how people respond. We do it for God, not praise of people. It’s a hard lesson for me, it’s certainly a hard lesson for our kids! Thanks for your thoughts on this!

    1. You’re right, Elaine. It is supremely difficult to be kind to those who don’t return it, but as you said, we’re doing it as worship to God not a way to be recognized by people. Thanks for reading!

  7. Enjoyed your post Chip. I particularly love the “kindness is heat to melt the hardest hearts and coolness to calm the most inflamed passions”. This is so true. It is interesting to note that when beginning my career as an educational leader, many advised to not be kind as people will take advantage of you. Well, over 35+ years in education kindness was the key to build trust, commitment and friendships. A great reminder to all.

    1. Thanks, Claudio! That’s so cool that you took the road less traveled and treated people with kindness. I think many still perceive my kindness as weakness, but I can’t remember the last person who walked all over me. They try now and again, but I persevere in kindness…or I try to. Thanks for commenting!

  8. Haha. I can relate to this. I used to think I could argue people into anything – and if they didn’t come to my side, well then it’s b/c I didn’t argue enough!

    I’ve only RARELY won someone over to my way of thinking by browbeating them with sound logic and facts – and that’s only ever on minor issues (like toilet seats).

    I still struggle to believe we are convinced by our emotions bc I naturally believe I am convinced by logic (but I’m sure its probably actually emotions).

    I think one of the most powerful verses on this topic for me – it comes to my mind often – is Romans 2:4.
    “Or do you despise the riches of His kindness, restraint, and patience, not recognizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?”

    RIGHT there you have it all in one verse… KINDNESS leads to a change of mind! (or is meant to)… it’s God’s way. 🙂

    1. Haha! I used to think that anyone who disagreed with me was stupid. Why wouldn’t they be? We can’t both be right, and I’ve discovered the truth. All they’ve discovered is an opinion….yeah, the fires of youthful zeal.
      I love that verse. It was in my mind the whole time I was writing this post. I even hummed the Chris Tomlin song. That’s the kind of KIND I want to be to others. Thanks for commenting!

  9. This is a terrific article, Chip. So true: “to treat someone with kindness is to treat someone as if they are made in the image of God.” Kindness begets kindness, often. It’s a beautiful circle!

    1. Oh, that’s good. Yes, I think my experience shows that when I’m kind to others, they return it. Not always, but at least when I’m kind to others the Lord is pleased. After all, he is kind to me when I don’t deserve it and when I might not return it to him. He’s gracious to me.

  10. I’ve always loved the idea that Jesus ups the ante. How you put it here–“we should demonstrate it in the same way God demonstrates his love for us, by sacrificing our very best and by loving the hateful, serving the spiteful, and blessing the vengeful.”–that sentence is a CHALLENGE to our comfortable Christianity.

    1. That’s a good phrase, Stephanie, comfortable Christianity. It really takes the teeth off the Gospel for us to be comfortable, huh? Trust me when I say, I am not good at this. These posts are as much for me as they are for my readers. Thanks for chiming in on my therapy 🙂

  11. Chip, what a fantastic reminder that kindness is treating others as if they are made in the image of God. Which they are! We tend to forget this and so it can become so easy to exclude, minimize, reject, demean others. And within this current world climate – we really could use more kindness and more recognition that all others are created by God, to be in his image and are deeply loved by God.

    1. You’re right, Anne. Kindness is needed now so desperately. We need kindness in the Church, we need it in our homes, and we need it in politics. Kindness has been usurped by Power as the means by which we win others over. But Power doesn’t win anything. It coerces. And that’s only a hollow victory at best. I hope I can be kind in all circumstances to all people. Thanks for your comments, Anne.

  12. When my children were young I taught them to study the eyes of others and to share what feelings they see. Are they happy, nervous, sad, scared, angry, hurting, etc.? It was a fun exercise; it gave them an awareness of what others need. This came in handy when they were angry with their sibling for some reason or another.

    For example, if one took a toy from another, or if one said something hurtful to the the other, they would immediately look at the eyes of each other, see the hurt and not long after they would apologize. This is one of the ways we taught them to be kind. We wanted them to be sensitive to what the other person was feeling, not just to their own feelings, wants and needs.

    One point you make, Chip, that stood out to me in your post is the Greek definition of kind; “it can also mean serviceable, useful, or good.” I like the word ‘useful.’ When we are kind we are useful to another person. We give them reason to respond in kindness, we brighten their day, we give them hope; our kindness or lack of can be the difference between a person choosing life or death. Kindness is a beautiful part of God’s fruit. Most of the time kindness costs us very little, but can have an incredible impact.

    Thank you for your thought provoking post!

    1. Wow, Marcie! That’s a great idea. I’m going to mention this to my wife about how to get the kids to be kinder. We feel like we keep repeating ourselves, and it’s so hard to teach empathy.
      I’m glad you liked that point. I liked it too. It was a neat new way of looking at “kind”. It’s basically useless when people treat us poorly. There’s no value. Thanks for the comments!

  13. Fresh and deep insight, Chip. The most difficult thing for me in showing kindness to enemies, those who have hurt me, is listening to those whispers. “You know they don’t deserve it, they will never, ever change, so what’s the point. You’re wasting your time.” But clearly the Bible teaches otherwise as you point out. For if we are only kind to those we like and love, how different are we from the people void of Jesus? And I never deserved God’s kindness toward me. Enjoyed looking at the meanings behind the word as well.

    Something resonated with me about kindness a few years ago in reading 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter. The first two attributes of unconditional love mentioned in verse 4, “Love is patient and kind.” Perhaps Paul was intentional here. And maybe the rest of the list; does not envy or boast, is not arrogant or rude, doesn’t insist on its own way or rejoice at wrongdoing” and so on, depend on patience and kindness. If I am not kind, it’s easier to be rude. If I am not kind, I will most likely also be boastful.

    1. I love this, Karen. I had considered using that reference, but I thought I would belabor the point. I’m glad you brought it up. Yes, to show love is to demonstrate patience. I’m not great at patience, but I want to be better at love. They go hand in hand. Thanks for your thoughts!

  14. I love that section called People Don’t Follow Logic, Chip. It is powerful, and, now that I see it on the page, no, not until I saw it on the page, is it plainly intuitive. Kindness is the language of God, and it finds it’s way to the hearts of all we encounter. I’ll be chewing on this fore a while and when I spend time with my enemies.

    When I’m with those I have a hard time with, I try to find the value they add to a situation or conversation. Sometimes it’s hard, but there is almost always something. Then I focus on it. When I can’t find the value, I try to remind myself that someone else is finding the benefit.

    Thank you for this encouragement.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing, Stephen. I really appreciated your comment. I have a hard time focusing on the value my enemies bring. That’s a great way to look at being kind to our enemies. I’m going to try to work that way of thinking into my life. Thanks!

  15. Chip, I really appreciate your honesty. I pray that I am growing in the Lord and shedding some of my own areas of pride, for that is a joke really, when considering Christ! Anyway, I appreciate you taking the time to dig deeply into the understanding of kindness. Your practical tips were my favorite part – loving, praying and resting in God’s outcome. There is so much peace in even just saying that. Lord, please help me live this!

    1. Thanks for your comments, Melissa. I need so much help. I think that’s one of the reasons I blog. It’s not because I’m an expert. It’s because I’m a failure, and I hope the lessons I’ve learned (or that I’m learning) will benefit someone else before they make a mess of things like I have and do.

  16. When people hurt us past the “tipping” point and become an enemy, it’s difficult to be kind for many reasons. It’s a very personal thing to think, “I loved this person, and that’s how they decided to treat me?” In my experience, more energy is expended hating someone than just forcing them aside and forgetting it, which is near impossible for me to do. I’m wired in a very passionate way, too. But I do find that I rest easier once the hate is gone. It occupies too much of my brain. I wish I could get rid of it sooner.

    1. You’re right, Jamie. Letting go of hurt is really difficult. I wish I were better at it.
      One of the things I try to keep in mind is a skit I saw once where a lady had a big black garbage bag with her. As people hurt her and abused her she started picking up the litter those people left behind and stuffing it in her bag. Pretty soon, she was carrying around everyone else’s garbage as her own burden. Holding my hurts doesn’t really hurt my enemies. They couldn’t care less. It’s only a burden to me. I’m not sure if that helps, but it helped me.
      Thanks so much for reading and commenting, Jamie 🙂 I really appreciate it.

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