Kindness is practiced relationally and personally. It is focused on individuals. The Bible says, “…be ye kind one to another…” (Ephesians 4:32) This is why kindness is so powerful – it is something anyone can do for another person. You don’t have to have a dynamic personality or a large platform to be kind. It is “one to another”; that is, one-to-one.
There are qualities that accompany kindness when it is real in one’s life. Read a bit more of the verse from which I quoted above. It contains an important element in being kind.
“And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted…” (Ephesians 4:32) A kind person is always one with a tender heart. The word “tenderhearted” here means “to have pity or compassion”. A compassionate person is characterized by being tenderhearted as their heart is touched easily with the needs and hurts of others.
This is he ability to feel. We fail to serve others because often we do not see the need or feel the hurt they have. It is kindness, or love, that keeps us from wishing someone would get what they deserve, but that there would be mercy extended to them instead.
Personally, I have never known a kind person that wasn’t compassionate. Kindness tenders our hearts. A person that is tough and unable to feel the pains of others will not be kind, but demanding and harsh.
Anne McCaffrey said, “Make no judgments where you have no compassion”. That doesn’t mean we are without values or have convictions, but if we are only value-driven without kindness and love for people, no one cares what we believe. Too, often our judgment is way off the mark without a proper context.
It’s easy to spout off to a family member about a bad attitude they are carrying when it actually may be a broken or sorrowing spirit from bad news you haven’t heard yet. Compassion and kindness are cousins; they are always related.
When compassion is absent there is a critical spirit rather than a heart to help. It’s easier to be critical than to be compassionate. It’s easier to tear down than to build. It’s easier to talk than to listen. It’s easier to get someone to understand you, than to understand them.
Someone humorously put this this way, “Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you’re a mile away and you have their shoes”. Here’s a good rule of thumb, make sure you have an idea of what is going on before you jump to conclusions and start to correct a person or a situation.
When we do that, we aren’t loving because we aren’t kind. I have done that to my family before and have great regrets for not pausing to ask questions before I started talking.
My friend, Bobby Lockwood, put it this way, “Compassion kills criticism”. I agree with him. Kindness has a quality of pity and sympathy that attends the suffering of others. It brings an attitude of mercy wanting to relieve the sorrow rather than to merely explain it in an academic sense, or worse, to condemn a person for hurting.
John Galsworthy stated, “Idealism increases in direct proportion to one’s distance from the problem”. Have you ever noticed that the kindest people tend to be the people that have suffered the most and those that are quickest to judge and condemn have not hurt as much.
Years ago I was to have a surgery that I expected would bring me significant relief from pain and it had to be postponed. It was postponed a second time and I was overwhelmed with discouragement. I was desperate for the pain to stop and it seemed that God wasn’t hearing my cries.
Around dusk I walked into our back yard to be alone and to pray and think. We have a trampoline for the children there and it is comfortable to lie on and look at the sky. It was a beautiful night as I climbed up on the trampoline and rested for a while. I tried to pray, but instead I wept.
If only I could get this surgery it would take care of my problem (or so I thought), but there were infections I had that kept preventing me from having it cared for. There I was, hurting, complaining, fearful, discouraged and wondering if I could make it another two weeks.
I heard someone approaching as the small sticks from the fallen tree limbs crunched underneath feet. I looked up and it was my mother. She saw me there in my despair and brokenness. Rather than a lecture she tousled my hair, told me everything would be alright, quoted some Bible verses and told me she loved me.
Her kindness and compassion was just what I needed at that moment. I didn’t need an explanation, for there wasn’t one; I needed hope and encouragement. I needed compassion and kindness.
Two weeks later I had the surgery. And it didn’t help my problem at all. In fact, my problem has grown worse since that time years ago. But the compassion of my mother let me know that she loved me. I will always remember her kindness and that was better than me getting well.
The Bible says, “Charity is…kind”. That means having pity, compassion and mercy rather than always pointing someone to the ideal. Someone said, “Love without truth is hypocrisy, and truth without love is brutality”. Mom could have been brutal with me, but instead loved her adult son with great tenderness and I am so grateful for those moments. I needed that more than she will ever realize.
Who in your circle of influence needs your compassion and kindness today? Show it to them and they will never forget it and they will know you really do love them.