What is the kindest thing you have ever seen?

One of the kindest act I ever experienced involved diapers. My wife and I used to take turns changing them. Then one day she did two poopy diapers in a row. So kind!

Another time, I backed our beautiful Lexus SUV into a telephone pole. She only said one thing: “That’s why we have insurance.” It was one of the best silent kindness I have ever experienced.

Last Friday, I was kind to her. We had a guest over for dinner. I came home from work late. That way I didn’t get in her way while she made dinner. I think of myself as growing in kindness.

In politics these days, in the Presidential race, there isn’t much kindness. Instead there is a lot of harshness, name calling, bullying, attacking and shaming.

This is quite unfortunate, because now ridiculing others is thought to be a sign of strength. It’s a bad model for all of us. True strength does not lie in the preschool behavior of name calling.

Authentic power reveals itself with a gentler demeanor.One of the most reliable indicators of healthy, mature leadership is the quiet but famous behavior, kindness.

Our God — the strongest being in the Universe — is fundamentally kind. Some folks mistakenly see God as harsh, judgmental, even cruel. But that is wrong. God is not mean. God is fundamentally and intrinsically kind.

Psalm 145:17-18

The LORD is just in all his ways, and kind in all his doings. The LORD is near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in truth.

Kindness, in the Bible, is a word that is not well distinguished from similar words and this has perhaps led to its neglect. For instance, Psalm 63, pairs kindness with love, as in God’s “lovingkindness.”

In fact, the word kindness overlaps in meaning with many other words, like goodness, mercy, love, grace, favor, compassion and gentleness and so translators often use these words somewhat interchangeably.

But it would be helpful to us, to clarify the meaning of kindness, to distill its essence, to win back its place, because it is a concept — or rather a behavior — that mature, powerful people practice with great specificity.

In Aristotle’s “Rhetoric” kindness is defined as follows: It is “helpfulness towards someone in need, not in return for anything, nor for the advantage of the helper himself, but for that of the person helped”.

This ancient meaning is in alignment with the NT meaning of kindness which perhaps has one of its richest connotations in the NT word chrestotes, kindness that has a usefulness to it.

Once when my wife and I were vacationing in England, in the Cotswolds, we walked through cow pastures and past sheep and stone walls up to the tiny town of Clapton on the Hill. Our plan was to take the bus back to meet a friend in Burton on the Water.

But when we got to Clapton, a sign said the bus only came through town like once a week.

So we started walking back, when a nice BMW or Audi came by, and stopped and a elderly couple asked, “Do you want a ride?”

We did and so we hopped in with muddy feet saying, “Thank you, thank you but we are so sorry to muddy your beautiful car.”

They shot right back. “Oh, don’t worry. It’s a rental.” It was kind anyway. For all they knew, we were dope smoking serial killers from California.

Kindness is a specific altruistic action, a powerful usefulness, (a ride in the rain), not simply politeness, nice talk or warm, fuzzy sentiments.

Studies show that kind behaviors, helping others, brings better health, better relationships, longer life and even more success in workplaces.

Kindness is powerful. Kindness rescues people, it causes openness, improvement, growth because it gives safe space for change. Think of the power of kindness in everyday life.

A police officer in Florida buys groceries for a poor woman’s caught shoplifting.

A church in Dallas finds foster homes for stray dogs in winter.

People in Chicago raise money for a car for a man who is walking to work.

A restaurant in Chula Vista, Panera Bread, opens its doors to feed homeless people on Thanksgiving Day. The REFINERY Church provides the food.

Kindnesses!

And there are greater than these.

Through kindness thousands of Jews were saved from the Holocaust. Through kindness Mother Teresa set up homes for the dying. And through kindness Bill and Linda Gates are giving away billions of dollars to stop disease.

Kindness is powerful. It is a catalyst for change. It saves lives. The Bible tells us that God’s kindness is like that. Romans 2:4. God’s kindness is meant to lead [us] to repentance.

In his kindness, God holds back judgment, gives us time, to give us a chance to repent, to get right. God’s Kindness makes space for us to change.

Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche argued that kindness is one of the “most curative herbs and agents in human intercourse”.

Betty Ford, wife of President Gerald Ford is a much-loved First Lady for her honesty, her kindness and her care for others. In 1974, Mrs. Ford discovered she had breast cancer. As a result, she had a radical mastectomy. She went public with this, (not common) and within days, 10,000 letters, 500 telephone calls, 200 telegrams and tons of floral arrangements poured into the White House and her suite at Bethesda Naval Hospital.

How kind!

Betty’s openness about her cancer showed care for others and that is what made others care for her.

In the months that followed Betty’s revelation about her cancer, tens of thousands of American women, inspired by her forthrightness and courage, crowded into doctors’ offices and clinics for breast-cancer examinations.

Kindness embraced difficulty … and changed what was acceptable in society.

Later in life, because of loneliness and stress Betty Ford ended up suffering from alcoholism and a pill addiction, but again she had the courage to face her problem, and recover, and in 1982, she helped found the Betty Ford Center, based on AA, and it became one of the best-known rehab programs in the nation.

Kindness is kind, even to it’s own mistakes, and in that way can lead to healing to ourselves and those around us.

What do we do with all this?

It’s simple. Be kind.

 

One of our church families is buying new flooring for one of our most used rooms. It’s $1800. How kind!

Another of our church members, a doctor, recently on his time off, came to the church and put new glazing in the windows of our classroom building. How humble — and kind.

One of our worship leaders, shows up at special surfer day in La Jolla each summer to help disabled adults try their hand as surfing.

How kind!

Micah 6:8. He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

 

“Three things in human life are important,” said novelist Henry James. “The first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.”

Comments
  1. Pat Graham says:

    You are right on target with your timely words!

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